A Suitable Boy Director Mira Nair: 'If We Don't Tell Our Own Stories, Someone Else Will'

Representation by those who have specific connections to the material was key to the making of A Suitable Boy. Tanya Maniktala, who plays Lata, emphasises the importance of the all-Indian rather than British-Indian cast, as many cast members could draw on their direct connections to Partition, making the story resonate profoundly with them.

Alongside newcomer Maniktala as Lata, the project drew in major names. Nair found it ‘remarkable that star actors would come on for one or two scenes’, giving the drama an all-star cast. She praises Ishaan Khatter, who plays Lata’s brother-in-law Maan, calling him ‘Maan to the core’ and just as she pictured the character in the novel.

The scripts were adapted by Andrew Davies [War and Peace, Les Misérables, Pride and Prejudice] and went through a partial process of re-translation from English, says Nair. She and her team transposed parts of the dialogue back to Hindustani, Urdu and regional dialects, further reclaiming the story and allowing it to stay true to its Indian origin.

Nair emphasises the necessity of representing Indian history and identities as an Indian, saying ‘If we don’t tell our own stories, someone else will, and if we let them,’ she laughs ruefully, ‘it probably won’t be the same.’ Her words allude to a long history of reductive and stereotypical representations of India and Indians on Western screens, a history that, thanks to A Suitable Boy, is about to be righted.

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