BBC One’s A Suitable Boy star Tanya Maniktala on the importance of telling her own story

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The star of A Suitable Boy on BBC One talks to Stylist about the marginalised voices that need to be heard and trending Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. 

Sunday night saw the launch of the BBC’s sumptuous new drama A Suitable Boy. The period drama is set in India and stars, for the first time on the BBC, an all South Asian cast. The show’s star Tanya Maniktala, who plays protagonist Lata, tells Stylist that a period drama without a white cast is long overdue. 

“Who else would tell our story but us? It’s our story,” says Maniktala who appears in this week’s Stylist magazine, which you can download on the App Store or Google Play. “We’ve lived through that and all of us have grown up with stories of the partition and we understand it in a way that nobody else ever will. So if you want to do justice to the story, if you want it to be presented as authentic, you have to stay authentic to the fact that this has to be told by us. Hopefully we will get to the point when it will become normal.”

Tanya Maniktala in A Suitable Boy on BBC One
Tanya Maniktala in A Suitable Boy on BBC One

A Suitable Boy was written in 1993 by Vikram Seth, and this is the first time it has been adapted for TV. The adaptation was written by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace) – although there has been some criticism that Davies was chosen for the adaptation, as opposed to a South Asian writer – and directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Queen of Katwe). 

It tells the story of Lata, an independent young student whose mother wants her to have an arranged marriage to a ‘suitable boy’, and is set against the backdrop of life post-partition. Lata wants something different, and meets and falls for a fellow student. However he is a Muslim, and as she is Hindu their union is unthinkable. Lata’s heartbreaks, romances, and the lives of four other inter-connected families are all charted through six episodes. 

(l-r) Vikram Seth, Ishaan Khatter, Mira Nair, Tabu, Tanya Maniktala, Andrew Davies
(l-r) Vikram Seth, Ishaan Khatter, Mira Nair, Tabu, Tanya Maniktala, Andrew Davies

The role couldn’t have come at a better time for Maniktala, who lives in Delhi.  She was working as a copywriter when she got the role, and tells Stylist that she had put acting on the backburner and was ready to give it up when this role came along, and changed everything. “I still can’t believe it,” she says. 

As well as talking about romance in the 1950s with Maniktala, we also discuss contemporary dating. Specifically the recent Netflix launch of Indian Matchmaking a reality show that follows an Indian matchmaker trying to set up arranged marriages. The shows feels surprisingly timely in light of the release of A Suitable Boy. “I haven’t watched it yet but considering that arranged marriages is still a very relevant concept in India today, I understand why the show may have come about,” says Maniktala. “It would be interesting to see what they bring to that show and what they bring to the arranged marriage side of the story.”

To read Tanya Maniktala’s full interview download Stylist magazine on the App Store or Google Play. Pricing for our digital magazine starts at just 99p for a single issue, or £21.99 for a full year’s subscription –that’s less than 50p a week.

A Suitable Boy is on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One

Images: BBC 

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