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Why I Couldn’t Watch Netflix’s A Suitable Boy

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Dreadful writing, boring storyline, callous imposition of the tongue of an English-speaking oppressor and courtesan, Netflix and BBC’s A Fits Boy is perhaps one of the most inaccessible shows on the planet right now – and I couldn’t watch. beyond two episodes.

This is do not a review. It can’t be a review, because I would have to watch the whole series to be able to see it again. I couldn’t watch more than two episodes. Honestly I think I would have quit after just one, but I was hungry for more Tabu. Unfortunately, even though Tabu can’t get me to finish a season, there must be something terribly wrong.

First of all, Mira Nair, stop pedaling white Indian exoticism. In a filmography of 11 projects, Nair eroticized India in seven of them. His version of India doesn’t go beyond his classical music, marigolds, silk dupattas, ghazals, sindoor and Ghalib. She peddles Bollywoodness, but not with the love of a family member, but as a shop owner, who chooses “conversation pieces” that will sell “like hot parathas” in a foreign land. And that’s why A decent boy felt the lack of sincerity.

Why do I say insincerity? As an Indian filmmaker, if you don’t understand the politics of the English language in 1951, you are irresponsible and callous. English was therefore the language of the oppressor. English was imposed on all the characters in the series. Now, let’s clarify a few things: yes, the book was written in English, but a book leaves room for the imagination. When a character speaks English in a book, it does not mean that the character speaks English in the reality of the story. In addition, English is a democratic language which obviously assures more readers for a text. But the visual medium is even more democratic than the English language and, therefore, does not need English to reach more audiences. Second, an audiovisual medium immediately builds a reality for the public. This reality must be flawless, justifiable and has no place for poetic license to ensure an immersive experience. If a character speaks in English, with a certain accent, uses a certain vocabulary, it all adds to their reality and to their identity. The viewer makes sense of it. For example, if two characters are on screen and one speaks British English while the other puts sentences together in chunks, the viewer is speculating on their realities, socio-economic status, education and antecedents. It’s audiovisual 101. So when Lata speaks in Queen’s chaste English, I get confused. Am I to believe his family is a British sympathizer suffering from a colonial hangover? When a right-wing Hindu politician speaks in English, what am I to assume about his reality? Or a king who refuses to give up his princely state? Or, most devastating, a Muslim tawaif? How distorted is reality when a tawaif speaks in English? What am I to assume from its reality? I refuse to accept this BBC could not have made this show in Urdu, Hindi and English, supporting it with subtitles. With the UK’s huge Indian, Pakistani and South Asian population, she would feel right at home. A healthy first step towards inclusiveness (unless that’s not a post-Brexit message the UK wants to encourage). With Netflix as a partner, it should have been an even more natural decision to make.

Dialogue writing is prosaic – and certainly not in a good way. No Indian speaks like the characters in the series. They never did. And if the characters speak in such a chic way as if they were characters from an Oscar Wilde or Bernard Shaw play, why haven’t they set their sights on London yet? The only characters that match this English are Lata’s older brother, his wife (played by the gorgeous Shahana Goswami) and her lover, Billy (Randeep Hooda). They are Anglophile characters. Lata’s brother sucks his British boss after independence. Speaking English to him makes sense. Lata’s mother said, “What have I done in my past life to be cursed like this?” sounds like an entry into a fifth grade short story competition.

I can’t understand why the show is so outrageously boring. Is it because it is an Indian reality beaten to death? Another show about parents desperate to marry their young daughter when she wants to make her own decisions, just in a new package? Is it too close after the one from Netflix Indian matchmaking, and we have had enough of the same pie? Or did Netflix think that because the world had been telling Seema Aunty bullshit they would now be mad at Mira Aunty? Technically speaking, the two episodes I saw were poorly scripted, lazily edited, and could have been easily cut in half. A Hindu girl who runs away at dawn to meet her new Muslim boyfriend near the Ganges? Yawning max. The novel was published in 1993. 27 years ago. If you think the world still has a shit about such storylines, you deserve this review (it isn’t). Or did you think that some Calcutta cotton and brown skin ghazals and sarees would be sufficiently salable packaging? I would like to highlight the Kalank failure of last year as an example of poor content in Manish Malhotra. He doesn’t fly anymore.

I feel bad for the actors. They didn’t sound bad at all – just held back by a bad script. Ishaan Khatter is trying really hard, as are Tanya Maniktala and Danesh Razvi. Both light up the screen, and I feel bad because they had to really bet on that BBC project for their career to take off. And it will be, with better projects, because they definitely deserve them. Tabu tries a lot, but fails. I can’t believe I wrote this.

Mira Nair has to wake up to India today. It’s still a mess, but the stories are different. She needs to look at mainstream content from the past three years and understand how even the masses are consuming engaging, conversational-oriented content. India still has Bandhani worries and dupattas, but we are busy discussing politics, gender and gender identity, caste based violence, among others. Padhaaro mhaare des for a better picture of the conversation in progress.

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