I’ve already written about how I enjoyed reading the super-long ‘A Suitable Boy’. After finishing the novel, I binge-watched the BBC series based on the book and am dropping 10 differences between the book and series.

  1. Lata, one of the central characters in the book was described to be dark. It’s something that really catches your attention because there are some snide remarks made about her skin colour in the very first few pages, like how the colour pink doesn’t really suit her. Her mother fears that she would have ‘black grandchildren’. However, in Mira Nair’s adaptation, the actor playing Lata is quite light-skinned, in fact, she is fairer than most of the other cast. It was unfortunate that Nair did not cast a darker actor to play the role, considering how Lata is said to be very attractive despite the colour of her skin.
  2. Since the actor playing Lata in the series is ‘fair’ (for the lack of a better word), obviously all the mean remarks about her skin colour do not make it to the adaptation either. Almost each time the actor appeared on the screen I would think “too fair”.
  3. Which brings me to another related disparity — her elder sister Savita is said to be fairer in the book and even more lovely to look at. That’s not the case in the series.
  4. Pran, the English professor who Savita is married to, was said to be very thin and sickly in the book. In the series, the actor looks stocky and is rather well built.
  5. I remember how there was some sort of “beauty and the beast” kind of comparison between Pran and Savita in the book. Savita is said to be light-skinned and beautiful, while Pran is dark and not very attractive. But the actors playing the roles don’t look mismatched at all.
  6. Lata’s best friend Malati was a disappointment, she was not as charming and quick-witted. Also, while Malati was said to have a better sense of dress than Lata, in the series, she is quite frumpy and Lata is dressed a lot smartly than her at all times.
  7. One of the most fun scenes in the book, the one where Maan, Pran’s younger brother is shown to go quite wild on the day of holi is given a major twist. While in the book, Maan goes to Pran’s house with his friend to play holi; in the series the holi celebrations takes place entirely at their father’s residence, who is also the state revenue minister.
  8. In the book, Maan harasses a senior professor by drowning him in water at Pran’s place on Holi day. In the series he humiliates the Home Minister instead — by drowning him in a water fountain. The incident leads to further rivalry between the two ministers.
  9. This might seem like a very minor detail, but what struck me right when I saw the trailer was that Lata constantly wears sleeveless blouses with her sarees. There is a scene where Mrs Mehra, her mother lovingly looks at her as she gets dressed to go out. But Seth’s conservative Mrs Mehra would have never approved of a skin-baring top, a little ‘too modern’ for the 1950s. In the book she was scandalized when her daughter-in-law wears a sleeveless blouse for a party.
  10. A lot of characters don’t make it to the series, which is understandable, because there would have been no time to do any justice to their arc. But one character who was undeservedly chopped off was that of Imtiaz Khan. While in the book, Maan’s best-friend Firoz has a twin brother Imtiaz, in the series, Firoz has no twin.

I originally made this post for Medium, where I’ve listed 50 differences. You can head to the site for the full list. Here’s the link to the post –

50 Ways in Which The BBC Series ‘A Suitable Boy’ Was Different from the Book