A Suitable Boy: How Different Is The Series From The 1500-Page Book?

Vikram Sath’s novel A Suitable Boy has been made into a 6-part series by BBC. The series directed by Mira Nair has been streaming on Netflix and people on Twitter are talking about it a lot. In this article, we will give you a birds-eye view of where the series deviated from the book.

Caution: Spoilers ahead

The Homoerotic Friendship Of Maan and Firoz

Within the first ten minutes of the series, it is established that Maan and his best friend Firoz harbor erotic affections for each other when he brushes off the rose petal from Maan’s shoulder with a longing gaze. Vikram Seth writes Firoz, a brother- Imtiaz, and a sister- Zainab who is married. In the book, Firoz, Imtiaz, and Maan are together at the wedding, and so any lingering tension between Firoz and Maan is swept under the homosocial setting. The homoerotic tension, if any, is too subtle at the beginning of the book. It becomes clear only much later, 1142 pages in, when Maan tells Firoz, “All that is over. We were just kids. Don’t tell me you’re jealous,” passing his hands over Firoz’s hair with a small sigh.

Lata and Kabir’s Kiss

In the book, Seth does not tell us if Kabir kissed Lata on the cheeks or the lips or the forehead, or, the hand. It is the series that has to take this forward. In the series, it is Lata that pulls Kabir in for their first kiss. She’s more confident, poised, and even her nerves are overshadowed by the earnestness of her moon-sized eyes.

Maan’s Popularity In Rudhia

Maan’s popularity in the village seems to have come from one incident. In the book that incident happens in private, and his popularity is a result of his sympathetic simmering in rural life. He just doesn’t come and flit away back to Brahmpur, but “has won [their] hearts by his simplicity”.  Even his departure from Rudhia in the series is sudden. The whole countryside stretch was snapped.

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Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor

When Mira Nair was asked by Sanjoy Roy at an online Jaipur Literature Festival event, how she brought her female gaze to this story written by a man, adapted into a screenplay by another man, her answer lay in a character that the series explored more diligently- Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor (Geeta Agrawal Sharma), “A silent devoted gardener, not even given a first name, who is the silent spine of her family… She was never really a vocal character in the [initial] 8 drafts. I noticed that Vikram dedicated the Hindi translation of A Suitable Boy by Ram Gandhi to Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor… I knew then how important she is to him as she is to me and basically wrote in this character, fleshed her out, and gave her several scenes.”

Meenakshi’s Pregnancy

Meenakshi is often seen in the series in sensational blouses, doing the tango in silk pant petticoats, or cuckolding her husband in the carved arms of Randeep Hooda. In the series, she and her sister Kakoli are seen bumbling about in couplets, but in the book this loving caricature is given a conflict- she becomes pregnant, and this makes one tensely wonder if her infidelity will be unmasked.

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When The Three Suitors Meet

There is a hilarious moment in the book where the three men- Kabir, Amit, and Haresh meet at a cricket match and have a conversation, but none of them realize they are all courting the same girl, Lata. In the book, it happens outside Lata’s brother’s house in Calcutta, and they all are made aware that they are one of three men in love with Lata. This axed the tension, but also made for a more cinematic thud as Lata’s mother shuts the door on Kabir, inviting Haresh in, as Amit leaves.

You can check out the trailer of the series here.

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