A Suitable Boy is the first BBC historical drama with no white characters - here's everything you need to know

(Photo: BBC)(Photo: BBC)
(Photo: BBC)

A new historical drama that recently debuted on BBC One has been getting critics excited, with high-scoring reviews across the board.

A Suitable Boy tells the story of 19-year-old university student Lata, who seems to have her life already mapped out "thanks to old traditions and an overbearing mother who wants to find her a suitable husband.”

Here's everything you need to know about it.

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What is A Suitable Boy about?

"Torn between romance and responsibility and inspired by rebellious writers and daring new ideas, Lata is determined to decide her own future in a newly independent India, boldly breaking free of its past," says the synopsis.

"Connected to Lata through their siblings’ marriage, wayward Maan wants every drop of excitement from life.

"However when he becomes infatuated with the glamorous courtesan Saaeda Bai, the consequences could be catastrophic…"

It takes place during a period of great change in India, following The Partition of Indian in 1947, when the British left the country after ruling there since the 1700s.

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In 1952, India went to the polls for its first-ever democratic national general election since Indian independence in August 1947.

A Suitable Boy is set against India’s newfound independence. 

The show is the eagerly awaited adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel of the same name which, at well over a thousand pages, is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language.

Who wrote it?

Condensing that massive tome into six bitesize episodes is no easy task, so the BBC turned to the man considered one of the best in the business – Andrew Davies.

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Davies' previous series include the original version of House of Cards, Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House and, most recently, ITV’s take on Jane Austen’s unfinished final book, Sanditon.

Eyebrows were raised in some quarters when it was announced that Davies, a white Welshman, was taking on a tale written by an Indian and set in the newly post-independence, post-partition India.

However, what many didn’t know was that Seth himself had a say in who would be hired to work on his magnum opus.

“I am truly thrilled to be chosen by Vikram Seth to adapt his masterpiece A Suitable Boy for the screen,” said Davies.

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Seth added: “It was with some anxiety that I agreed to my book being put on the screen, but I’m glad I did... my story is in safe yet inspiring hands.

Who stars in the cast?

A Suitable Boy's cast is most-notable by the fact it is claimed it contains no white characters, a first for a BBC historical drama.

"We all passionately believed that the series should be filmed in India with an Indian cast," said Seth, "and we have got great locations and wonderful actors.”

The cast is led by Bollywood leading man Ishaan Khatter (Beyond the Clouds, Dhadak) and Indian screen legend Tabu (The Namesake, Life of Pi, Andhadhun) alongside rising star Tanya Maniktala in the central role of Lata.

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Faith Penhale, Executive Producer, said: "We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate this wonderful country on the international stage by working with an incredibly talented ensemble of Indian actors and by shooting everything on location."

When can I watch it?

A Suitable Boy started on Sunday 26 July.

That first episode is available to catch up with on iPlayer, and further episodes of the six-part drama will air on Sunday evenings at 9pm.

Outside of the UK, Netflix has secured the rights to the drama, so it will be broadcast internationally, including in India.

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