Acorn TV’s lively BBC series ‘A Suitable Boy’ shares life in 1950s India

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By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

BBC One’s cinematic, highly watched limited series “A Suitable Boy” is a new lavish, colorful TV series adaptation of the global bestseller A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, one of the longest novels in the English language at 1,349 pages. This series, premiering exclusively in the U.S. and Canada on the Acorn TV streaming service, is the perfect alternative to traditional holiday fare. Indulge in the “glorious…swoony” (TV Guide) BBC hit period drama miniseries, “A Suitable Boy.”

The series kicked off with Episodes 1 and 2 on December 7, with weekly episodes through January 4. RogerEbert.com compliments its “engrossing arcs, attention-grabbing cliffhangers,” while Paste calls it a “richly composed series…[with] an outstanding cast.”

It is the first TV series directed by Academy Award-nominated film director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “Mississippi Masala,” “The Namesake” and “Queen of Katwe”) and adapted by two-time Emmy winning screenwriter and executive producer Andrew Davies (“Pride And Prejudice,” “War And Peace,” “House of Cards” and “Les Misérables”).

Reminiscent of classic, acclaimed BBC and Masterpiece period dramas, “A Suitable Boy” is an epic tale of life and love set in vibrant 1950s India, telling the story of spirited university student Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala), who comes of age in North India in 1951, at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation post-Partition and is about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election.

I didn’t know what to expect when first watching this new series. While I am familiar with series from other countries and have watched many Bollywood productions, I was thoroughly intrigued with this Acorn TV selection. The scenery is vibrant, but the storyline(s) are just as entrancing. There is much more than just Lata being pressured to find a husband. There’s Maan, who has been matched up with a wife from another region, but he is mesmerized by a woman of “ill repute,” and she is in kind smitten with him. But after a while of gallivanting, she realizes that Maan is bad for business. Finally, he is ostracized by his father because he just won’t get with the program—meaning taking up marriage with a total stranger.

Lata wastes no time in becoming attracted to a fellow college student, but he is certainly not fit to date her, and she is reminded of this by her mother, who is very strict and tight-laced. In Episode 2, upon learning of Lata’s betrayal, the mom gives Lata “two tight slaps,” I believe that’s how her “hand-to-cheek” maneuver was described.

There are other shenanigans going on, including a newlywed who doesn’t seem to understand that she is married—and risks getting caught engaging in liaisons with her lover. The first two episodes of “A Suitable Boy” were exciting enough, and the storyline around the upcoming election and the dawn of India’s independence is a nice history lesson—like a cherry on top.

This sweeping drama features BBC’s first-ever all-Indian lead cast, including the subcontinent’s screen icon Tabu (“The Namesake” and “Life of Pi”), Bollywood leading man Ishaan Khatter (“Beyond the Clouds”), rising star Maniktala, as well as Shahana Goswami, Ram Kapoor and Rasika Dugal. The hypnotic score is by BAFTA-winning composer Alex Heffes (“Touching the Void”), with world renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar (her first for a TV series).

Shot entirely in stunning locations throughout northern India, including Lucknow and Maheshwar, “A Suitable Boy” was recently the first ever television series to close the Toronto International Film Festival and was part of AFI Fest’s prestigious “Special Presentations.” Take a look at the trailer: https://youtu.be/XWKRGTB5Irg. To sign up for a free trial with Acorn TV, visit https://acorn.tv/browse/most-popular/?msclkid=ba8134ff97d9168905fc6b2f870acf2d&gclid=CLX05KjJv-0CFTOoZQod_mwIKQ&gclsrc=ds.

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