LABOUR OF LOVE
Grazia|November 2020
Set in a nation experiencing its first flush of independence in the wake of Partition, Mira Nair chats with us about her maiden television project
PASHAM ALWANI

It’s 11.37 pm on a Thursday night in October, five days after Mira Nair’s film adaptation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy has aired on Netflix in India and I’m scheduled to have a Zoom interview with the filmmaker, who is currently in lockdown in New York. As usual, I’m wary, awkward, and easily intimidated – but Nair, who greets me with her dark, kohl-lined eyes and disarming smile, immediately puts me at ease and exudes the same warmth, passion, candour, and vibrancy that we’ve grown accustomed to through her films. In a Grazia exclusive, the award-winning director shares anecdotes from filming the show to the process of bringing Seth’s post-Independence, Austenesque expansive novel to life, and also talks about the challenges faced while putting the finishing touches on the series amidst a pandemic.

PAST PERFECT

Seth’s sweeping 1,500-page novel is a saga that follows four families through a layered look at politics and love in a post-Partition India – so what drew Nair to it? “I actually read the novel back to back, twice, soon after it was published in 1993. And I considered it to be like my best friend that I didn’t want to leave. Honestly, it’s very rare to have that feeling. A Suitable Boy is about a time in India which I wish I had been born in. And it is a time which, for me, depicts the great idealism of our country, and soon after, freedom. It was also in the year 1950 that my parents married and were part of this whole endeavour of creating a new country after breaking free from the shackles of the British. I always look at it as a time where, despite the wounds of Partition and all the accompanying trauma, the extraordinary history and syncretic culture of Hindus and Muslims and so many more, were all woven into the tapestry of our culture in all aspects – in music, in friendships, in poetry, and in language. And really, this is exactly what Vikram Seth does so eloquently, and with such a big and amazing heart. I wanted to do that right for him and right for the ‘suitable boy’,” she shares.

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