'This show is just the start': inside the BBC's all-person-of-colour A Suitable Boy

‘This is an Indian story,” says Tanya Maniktala, “so it’s about time it was told by us.” The 22-year-old actor is speaking by video call from Delhi about playing the lead in a groundbreaking BBC adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy.

The six-part series is the first time the BBC has had a historical drama cast entirely with people of colour, and the first time that Seth’s 1993 novel – one of the longest in the English language – has been adapted for the screen. “It’s a landmark,” says BBC commissioning editor Mona Qureshi. “With a novel like this, where there aren’t characters who are white, it makes sense to have an all south Asian cast. It has been a long time coming.”

A Suitable Boy is set in 1951, against the backdrop of a newly independent and post-partition India. It tells the story of 19-year-old Hindu Lata, played by Maniktala, who is under pressure from her widowed mother to find an appropriate husband. A chance encounter with the Muslim boy Kabir sees Lata fall in love, but their religious differences echo the wider clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the country. When Lata’s mother learns of their affair, the relationship is forbidden. There follows a vast, intergenerational coming-of-age story, involving four families and more than 110 characters over the course of 18 months, right across India. It is a grandiose reflection of a nation coming to terms with a new identity.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 20/07/20]