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A Suitable Boy - start date, cast, plot and everything you need to know

A Suitable Boy comes to BBC
(Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

BBC drama A Suitable Boy. When’s it on? How many episodes? Who’s who? Everything you need to know…

Prepare for a heady cocktail of passion, politics and stunning scenery as we’re transported back to 1950s India in BBC1’s sumptuous Sunday-night period drama, A Suitable Boy, now available on iPlayer. See our BBC dramas 2020 piece for more great shows to enjoy on iPlayer.

Filmed on location last year, the epic six-parter is based on Vikram Seth’s acclaimed coming-of-age 1993 novel charting the fortunes of four interwoven Indian families as the country explores its newfound independence from Britain. It has been adapted for the small screen by Andrew Davies (War & Peace, Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice).

The first episode introduces the parallel stories of free-spirited literature student Lata Mehra (played by newcomer Tanya Maniktala) and enchanting courtesan Saeeda Bai (Bollywood film legend Tabu).

Lata’s widowed mum Rupa (Mahira Kakkar) is determined to arrange the perfect marriage for her 19-year-old daughter – but Lata has other ideas and soon has three potential suitors vying for her attention... Meanwhile, Saeeda Bai finds herself falling for impulsive bad boy Maan (Ishaan Khatter).

Who’s who

Meet the cast and characters in BBC drama A Suitable Boy…

Lata Mehra is played by Tanya Maniktala

Lata on the telephone looking concerned

Calling it off? Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala) receives shocking news about one of her suitors... (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

Resisting her mother Rupa’s attempts at matchmaking, spirited student Lata begins three whirlwind romances…

“Lata is colourful, confident and full of life,” says Tanya, 23, who plays her. “She’s on a journey to find herself and will do exactly what her heart say – despite what her mother wants for her!

“She’s an open-minded girl and not afraid of making mistakes.”

Saeeda Bai played by Tabu

Maan gazes lovingly at Saeeda Bai

Do Maan and Saeeda Bai have a swing and a prayer of finding true love? (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

The mesmerising courtesan is shocked when her flirting with politician’s son Maan develops into something deeper.

“Saeeda Bai is larger than life,” explains Tabu, 49. “She’s a courtesan and singer. It’s a tradition she’s been born into. She has to entertain men-of-power for a living with her music, her body, her beauty and her charm.

“She tries to protect herself from Maan’s love, because she knows the danger. But when he brings her a book just because she’s fond of poetry, she realises this is pure and gives in to that feeling of being respected and desired by a man because he values her as a person with a spirit.”

Mrs Rupa Mehra played by Mahira Kakkar

Lata's mum Mrs Rupa Mehra

Lata's mum Mrs Rupa Mehra (Mahira Kakkar) (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

After finding a suitable suitor for eldest daughter Savita, loveable Rupa is determined to find Lata a husband too!

“Lata’s relationship with her mother Rupa is like any mother and daughter,” says Tanya. “It’s doting, it’s strained, it’s everything!

“They have tiffs, but they really care for each other and want what’s best for the other. Lata is much like her mother, which is why they disagree in the heat of the moment – they’re both strong-headed!”

Maan Kapoor is played by Ishaan Khatter

Saeeda Bai reads to Maan

Reading between the lines, is Maan a suitable boy for Saeeda Bai? (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

Impetuous Maan devotes himself to glamorous musician Saeeda Bai, with serious consequences for his nearest and dearest…

“Maan is a very passionate young man and someone who is functioning on his own rhythm,” says Ishaan. “He doesn't care much for convention or the correct way of doing things!”

Mahesh Kapoor is played by Ram Kapoor

A Suitable Boy star Ram Kapoor as Mahesh Kapoor

A Suitable Boy star Ram Kapoor as Mahesh Kapoor (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

Maan’s father, Mahesh, doesn’t want anything to unbalance his career at a politically difficult time, and is increasingly frustrated by the actions of his rebellious younger son Maan.

“Maan’s father is a government official in post-Independence India,” explains Ishaan. “Mahesh has dedicated his life to returning land back to oppressed civilians and farmers. Maan, is severely under informed about his father’s predicaments.”

Kabir Durrani played by Danesh Razvi

Lata in the library with smitten Kabir

A whole Lata love! The first flush of flirtation between Lata and Kabir... (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

The handsome cricket player begins a romance with Lata despite the religious barriers they face.

“Lata meets Kabir in the university library and is very passionate with him,” reveals Tanya. “She has a wild side with Kabir!”

Amit Chatterji played by Mikhail Sen

A Suitable Boy star Mikhail Sen as Lata's literary love interest Amit

A Suitable Boy star Mikhail Sen as Lata's literary love interest Amit (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

The eldest sibling in Calcutta’s eccentric Chatterji family, writer Amit forms a bond with Lata at a family party.

“Amit is a great poet and author,” says Tanya. “Lata and Amit are like-minded and connect through books and words.”

Haresh Khanna played by Namit Das

Behind the scenes on A Suitable Boy. Namit Das as Haresh Khanna with director Mira Nair

Behind the scenes on A Suitable Boy. Namit Das as Haresh Khanna with director Mira Nair (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

Flashy dresser Haresh has two goals in life: A top career in the footwear industry and being matched with Lata!

“Lata has three main suitors, but Haresh is the most unsuitable boy!” laughs Tanya. “They have nothing in common but share a vulnerability.”

A Suitable Boy is a six part series available on iPlayer. See our TV Guide for more great shows to enjoy.

Elaine Reilly
Elaine Reilly

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab) (opens in new tab) covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.