Mira Nair: Netflix no longer involved in ‘A Suitable Boy’

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Film director Mira Nair with the founder and Executive Director of the Indo-American Arts Council Aroon Shivdasani, in New York City, on May 6. Photo: Peter Ferreira.

NEW YORK – Acclaimed Indian American film director Mira Nair, best known for riveting films like ‘Mississippi Masala’, ‘The Namesake’, the Golden Lion-winning ‘Monsoon Wedding’ and ‘Salaam Bombay!’, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, came down from Mumbai to New York, to attend the 20th anniversary gala celebration of the Indo-American Arts Council, on May 6.

Nair has a busy year ahead of her. She is in the process of finalizing the cast for an eight-episode serial to bring to life Vikram Seth’s novel ‘A Suitable Boy’.

In an exclusive interview to News India Times, on board the Cornucopia Majesty yacht, in New York City, where the gala was held, Nair revealed that Netflix, which was reported to have had a tie-up to screen the eight episodes, is no longer involved. Three other American companies are in talks with Nair to partner with BBC productions, to screen the works.

Nair also revealed that the Indian actress Tabu has been roped in for the episodes of ‘A Suitable Boy’. Excerpts from the interview:

With eight episodes of Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’, how big a jump is it for you to get onto Netflix, and reach out to a bigger audience?

Directing all of ‘A Suitable Boy’ is like a dream for me. I love this book since it was written and I love to make something that is so human and funny and political about a free India in 1950. So I’m thrilled and I’m deeply immersed since January.

This is not for Netflix by the way, just to set the record straight. It’s no longer for Netflix. It is a BBC production. BBC was partnering with Netflix, but they (the latter) are no longer involved. There will be an American partner, though.

So, are the eight episodes intact? Has anything changed with this new arrangement?

Everything is same. ‘A Suitable Boy’ will be made into eight episodes. There are three other American partners vying for it, to release it. We will take that decision in probably two weeks.

I read reports of you scouting for talent in India. Have you finalized the cast?

Yes, I came down here (to New York) only for this event. Not yet, but I have finalized 40 percent of the cast.

Tabu was fabulous in ‘The Namesake’. Will she be there in ‘A Suitable Boy’?

Tabu will be there. Also, Boman Irani, Roshan Seth, and several young, delectably incredible men and women.

Film director Mira Nair with novelist Salman Rushdie, in New York City, on May 6. Photo: Peter Ferreira.

Is serializing works for TV, adapting bigger works from Indian fiction, a new trend? I read a report that Netflix is bringing to life Aravind Adiga’s novel ‘The White Tiger.’

It is not about bigger or smaller works. But yes, we will see more of it.

From a feature film like ‘The Namesake’ to directing eight-part episodes of ‘A Suitable Boy’. How do you deal with it?

I love it. ‘A Suitable Boy’ is a 1,400 word novel. I don’t want to squish it into two hours of film. I want the voluptuousness of time, and pace and rhythm. I mean its four families at the time of India’s freedom. It’s an amazing saga.

Read related interview, with Salman Rushdie: http://www.newsindiatimes.com/salman-rushdie-courts-in-america-worth-praising/35335

Read related column by Sujeet Rajan, of Aroon Shivdasani announcing her retirement: http://www.newsindiatimes.com/aroon-shivdasani-grande-dame-of-indian-culture-in-us-to-retire/35360

There are works that surprise when adapted to screen. A favorite of mine is Michael Ondaatje’s novel ‘The English Patient’. You are known to be a stickler to the originality of the novel. Are you going to follow that norm for ‘A Suitable Boy’?

Andrew Davies, who wrote the screenplay for ‘War and Peace’ (also, ‘House of Cards’, ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, and adaptations of ‘Vanity Fair’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and ‘Middlemarch’) has written the screenplay for ‘A Suitable Boy’. So, it’s a real distillation of the novel. I will do whatever it takes to make it effective and human. I have also Vikram Seth with me and that’s lovely.

Have you thought of bringing Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ to screen?

Yes, I love her work. I’m occupied right now. Not permanently occupied though.