Vikram Seth’s award-winning 1993 novel ‘A Suitable Boy’ is an epic tale of life and love, set in India just after independence.  A Suitable Boy is coming to BBC One and BBCiPlayer from Sunday 26th July.  

A Suitable Boy, tells the story of Lata, an independent young woman whose family is trying to find a suitable match for her to marry.  

The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months, and centres on the efforts to arrange the marriage of  Lata, to a “suitable boy” by her mother. Ninteen-year-old Latha refuses to be influenced by her domineering mother or opinionated brother. Her story revolves around the choice she is forced to make. Staring from the Indian town of Brahmpur, located along the Ganges the story moves on to the Indian cities of Calcutta, Delhi, Lucknow giving a colourful backdrop for The Suitable Boy.
This drama based on one of the longest books in English (1,488 pages and 591,552 words)  is directed by Mira Nair, an Indian-American filmmaker based in New York, with an all Indian line up of 110 actors.

              Mira Nair

Mira Nair is an accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer. She was born in Bhubaneshwar, in Orissa and educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. She began her film career as an actor and then turned to direct award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988.

In the summer of 2000, Nair shot Monsoon Wedding in 30 days, a story of a Punjabi wedding starring Naseeruddin Shah. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival, Monsoon Wedding also won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and opened worldwide to tremendous critical and commercial acclaim.

A Suitable Boy starts on BBC 1  on Sunday 26th July at 9 pm. The series will run for six episodes and will be available on Player shortly after broadcast.  Netflix also has secured the rights to the BBC drama meaning it will be available on the platform abroad, including India.


Characters in A Suitable Boy:

The four main families in the novel are:

  • The Mehras
    • Mrs. Rupa Mehra, a mother searching for a suitable boy for her youngest daughter
    • Raghubir Mehra, her deceased husband
      • Arun, Mrs. Mehra’s oldest son (married to Meenakshi Chatterji)
        • Aparna, daughter of Arun and Meenakshi
      • Varun
      • Savita (married to Pran Kapoor)
        • Uma Kapoor, daughter of Savita and Pran
      • Lata, whose arranged marriage forms the basis of the main plot
  • The Kapoors
    • Mr. Mahesh Kapoor (state Minister of Revenue) and Mrs. Mahesh Kapoor
      • Veena (married to Kedarnath Tandon)
        • Bhaskar Tandon, son of Veena and Kedarnath
      • Pran (married to Savita Mehra)
      • Maan
  • The Khans
    • The Nawab Sahib of Baitar
      • Zainab, his daughter
        • Hassan and Abbas, her sons
      • Imtiaz, a doctor
      • Firoz, a lawyer
    • Ustad Majeed Khan, a famed musician, relation to the family not specified
    • Begum Abida Khan, politician (sister-in-law of the Nawab Sahib)
  • The Chatterjis
    • Mr. Justice Chatterji and Mrs. Chatterji
      • Amit, eldest son and internationally acclaimed poet and author. A prominent love interest of Lata
      • Meenakshi (married to Arun Mehra)
      • Dipankar
      • Kakoli
      • Tapan

Other prominent characters

  • Dr Durrani, mathematician at the university that Kabir and Lata attend
    • Kabir Durrani, a love interest of Lata and a central hub of one of the main themes of the novel. Kabir is a highly successful player on the university cricket team. Lata and Kabir have a brief, intense courtship, the ramifications of which echo through the rest of the novel.
    • Hashim Durrani, Kabir’s brother
  • Haresh Khanna, an enterprising and determined shoe-businessman, who is also a love interest of the heroine
  • Nehru
  • Malati, best friend of Lata
  • Mrs Tandon
    • Kedarnath Tandon (married to Veena Kapoor)
  • Saeeda Bai, courtesan and musician
  • Tasneem, sister of Saeeda Bai
  • Bibbo, a servant at Saeeda Bai’s house
  • Rasheed, a student at Brahmpur University; Tasneem’s Urdu teacher
  • Ishaq, sarangi player
  • S S Sharma, Chief Minister
  • Agarwal, Home Minister
    • Priya, his daughter (married to Ram Vilas Goyal)
  • Simran, a Sikh woman and former love interest of Haresh Khanna
  • Kalpana Gaur, a friend of the Mehra family
  • Billy Irani, the friend of Arun Mehra, later has an affair with Meenakshi
    • Shireen, his fiancee
  • Bishwanath Bhaduri
  • Abdus Salam
  • Raja of Marh
    • Rajkumar of Marh, his son
  • Dr Bilgrami
  • Professor Mishra, an English professor
  • Dr Ila Chattopadhay, an English professor
  • Hans, an Austrian diplomat
  • The Guppi, inhabitant of Salimpur
  • Netaji, Rasheed’s uncle
  • Sahgal
  • Makhijani, indulgent poet
  • Sandeep Lahiri
  • Waris, a servant at the Baitar Fort and competes with Mahesh Kapoor in the General Election

The Munshi, in charge of the Baitar Fort

Jagat Ram, a shoemaker


Dr Kishen Chand Seth

Professor Nowrojee, who runs the university literary club attended by Kabir and Lata

Sunil Patwardhan, a mathematician at Brahmpur University

Parvati, Mrs Rupa Mehra’s stepmother

First edition of A Suitable Boy

About Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta. He went to The Doon School in Dehradun and went to Tonbridge School, England, to do his A-levels. Later he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. 

A Suitable Boy was published in 1993.


Credits: BBC/ Wikipedia