Why ‘A Suitable Boy’ Director Mira Nair Needed to Be the One to Adapt Novel: ‘It Is Us Who Need to Tell This Story’ (Video)

TIFF 2020: “Because it’s so much a portrait of our country and our culture and our people that it is us who need to tell this story”

Filmmaker Mari Nair had a deep connection and long history with Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel “A Suitable Boy,” which she as adapted into a new series for the BBC.

Nair is a long-time friend of Seth’s, she said during TheWrap’s virtual studio for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

“I love this novel,” Nair said. “It inspired several things in sort of acknowledging us Indians as we truly are, caught between modern and ancient cultures.

“It’s very much a portrait of India soon after its freedom from the British,” she continued. “It’s about a time in our country where we are finding who we are, preparing for our first democratic elections and at the heart or it is also a mother’s search for a suitable boy for her unmarried daughter.”

The story takes place in 1951, four years after the British withdrew from India, and follow four families over a period of 18 months, centering on Rupa Mehra’s efforts to arrange the marriage of her younger daughter, Lata, a 19-year-old university student who refuses to be influenced by her domineering mother.

The book, “a door stopper of a novel” as Nair called it, shines its light on mainly elite families in India and examines of national politicals, Hindu-Muslim strife, the status of lower caste peoples in India, family relations and a range of other issues.

“I have loved this novel because Vikram really captures this saga of four families — the Khans, the Kapoors, the Mehra’s and the Chatterjis — mostly elite families across India, in this moment where we are actually as Anglicized as the Brits who left us,” Nair said. “But we’re also at a time where the country is finding out what itself is going to be.

“But 20 something years later or more, when I heard that bbc was making ‘A Suitable Boy’ I had to be the one,” she continued. “I had to throw my sari in the rink as I like to say, and tell them what I would do with it and how because it’s so much a portrait of our country and our culture and our people that it is us who need to tell this story.”