Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas

Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas
“A Suitable Boy” is produced by BBC Studios and is now streaming on Netflix. (YouTube)
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Updated 26 October 2020

Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas

Review: ‘A Suitable Boy’ mirrors political, personal dilemmas on an unwieldy canvas

CHENNAI: One of the biggest traps when adapting a literary novel to screen is the director’s temptation to include just about everything in the text. Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy,” based on Vikram Seth’s 1993 1300-page magnum opus, falls precisely into this trap.

Produced by BBC Studios and now streaming on Netflix, the six-episode miniseries has a canvas too big for comfort, and Nair does not seem to be quite in command. Too many characters, some merely flitting in and out of frame, seem like a jigsaw puzzle, and it is difficult to understand how each one is related to one another. What is even more annoying is that they converse in English, perhaps a production ploy to attract a Western audience.




“A Suitable Boy” is a the six-episode series. (YouTube)

Set in the fictional university town of Brahmpur in 1951, four years after the British left the partitioned subcontinent, the series tries exploring the sense of freedom emerging at the political, social and personal levels. Even as new equations are forming among parties professing different ideologies, and the youth are experimenting with newer notions of romantic love, writer Andrew Davies’ core plot to place the life of 19-year-old Lata (Tanya Maniktala) in the context of a bewildering choice of suitors loses its way in the melange of men and women.

Her sweetly domineering mother insists that she, and she alone, must have the right to choose a suitable groom, but Lata falls in and out of love with three men, each affair accentuating her confusion. There is Kabir Durrani (Danesh Razvi), a handsome history undergrad and budding cricketer who Lata is passionately fond of. Poet and British-educated Amit Chatterji (Mikhail Sen) and disciplined, self-made shoemaker Haresh Khanna (Namit Das) also compete for her affections in a story which conveys the dilemma of a girl fighting to free herself from societal shackles. But Nair goes overboard here. Scenes of Lata kissing Kabir in a public place in the extremely conservative 1950s India appear like the director’s desperate attempt to prove a point. I am sure she could have taken the liberty to digress from the novel.




“A Suitable Boy” is set in the fictional university town of Brahmpur in 1951. (YouTube)

“A Suitable Boy” has other tracks, too. A respected politician’s son, Maan Kapoor (Ishaan Khatter), who is infatuated with an older courtesan, Saeeda Bai Firozabadi (Tabu), plays a role in the series. Lata’s arrogant brother and sister Savita (Rasika Dugal) are part of the motley group. It is her marriage that kicks off the series mirroring the political-religious animosities of a new nation and the personal battles of the youth.

Nair’s debut into television (though not her first in literary adaptations) meticulously details the period, with Stephanie Carroll leading production design and Arjun Bhasin dressing up the characters. The street scenes in what was then called Calcutta appear wonderfully authentic, replete with its quaint trams and hand-pulled rickshaws. Refreshing performances — particularly Maniktala’s — pep up the visual appeal. Yet, “A Suitable Boy” is certainly not in the same league as Nair’s 2001 Venice Golden Lion winner “Monsoon Wedding.”


Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek hit ‘Eternals’ red carpet

Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek hit ‘Eternals’ red carpet
Updated 9 sec ago

Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek hit ‘Eternals’ red carpet

Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek hit ‘Eternals’ red carpet

LOS ANGELES: Actors Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek brought Hollywood glamor to the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ latest comic book adaptation, “Eternals,” this week.

Directed by Chloe Zhao, who won best director and best picture for the film “Nomadland” at the Oscars earlier this year, “Eternals” boasts one of the most diverse casts of any Marvel movie.

Actress Salma Hayek arrives for the world premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” at the Dolby theatre in Los Angeles. (AFP)

“I hope it just starts to normalize what should have been there in the first place,” Jolie told Reuters. “I hope people watch these films in years to come and we don’t even think about it as being diverse.” 

The film stars Syrian refugee-turned-actor Zain Al-Rafeea as part of the star-studded cast, who plays the role of a villager who comes across the Eternals when they arrive on Earth.

Delayed a year due to the pandemic, “Eternals” will finally hit cinemas on Nov. 5 in the Middle East. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
Updated 19 October 2021

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models

More Middle East personalities could be next Madame Tussauds Dubai wax models
  • The museum opened its 25th branch in Dubai last week

DUBAI: Additional Middle East personalities could join the list of famous Arab figures on display at Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“We listen to our customers; we listen to their feedback. So, we will always be updating the figures and enhancing the products,” Sanaz Kollsrud, general manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai, told Arab News.

The museum opened its 25th wax attraction in the city on Oct.14, making it the brand’s first branch in the Middle East. 

Maya Diab at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

The famous attraction has a total of 16 figures from the Middle East region. These include talents from the music industry — such as Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab — and athletes that were made exclusively for the branch in Dubai.

“At the moment, Madame Tussauds has 25 wax attractions around the world, including the US, Europe, and Asia. I’m sure that the brand will look at opportunities to expand at a later stage,” Kollsrud said.

Dubai has been a perfect choice for the Middle East branch, as it is a global tourist destination. The general manager said the museum is also located near a major attraction in the city, Ain Dubai, and is surrounded by a variety of retail and dining options.

Donald and Melania Trump at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

When asked how the museum chooses the figures it wants to display, Kollsrud said there is a lot of research behind figure selection, including customer research.

“It took about 18 months to put together a figure list, during which we looked at the popularity of the celebrities regionally and globally, especially within the UAE,” she said.

To keep the figures clean and protected, a team of artists works daily to make sure the statues are in perfect shape, the general manager said.

Lewis Hamilton at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

She added that a team of 20 artists completes one wax figure within four to seven months. 

They even insert real hair strands, which can cost $190,605.

"There is a sitting involved with the talent, where they come and we do around 500 measurements, including head to toe," Kollsrud said.

The tourist destination consists of seven themed rooms and includes over 60 lifelike wax figures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping at Madame Tussauds Dubai. (AN_Photo)

 


Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser
Nassar proposed to Gates last January. Instagram
Updated 18 October 2021

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer weds Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser

DUBAI: Jennifer Gates, the daughter of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has married Egyptian equestrian Nayel Nasser, it has been reported.

The two tied the knot at her farm in North Salem, New York.

The 25-year-old wore a custom Vera Wang gown, as per reports. Media outlets also reported that the newlyweds held a private Muslim ceremony the night before Saturday’s 300-guest celebration.

Nassar, 29, proposed to Gates, who has a degree in human biology, in January during a ski trip.

In September, Gates posted a picture on her Instagram of the two in a sweet embrace.

Nayel commented on the post, “Can't wait for forever with you.”

She also shared another photo in May from what appears to be their engagement photo shoot, writing, “I can hardly wait to marry you!”

The two have been together since January 2017, bonding over their passion for equestrian sports, with Gates also being an equestrian athlete who competes frequently, but not on a professional level like Nassar. Both belong to the Paris Panthers, a riding club which competes in different forms of equestrian sporting events.

In an interview with equestrian-focused publication Sidelines Magazine, the 23-year-old Stanford graduate said: “Nayel always reminds me to believe in myself, which is so important. I’m so lucky to have him as a partner.”

He’s incredibly supportive, humble and loyal, and someone that I look forward to building a life with.”

Nassar was born to millionaire parents in Chicago in the US, but was raised in Kuwait.

His parents run an architecture and design firm which relocated to the US in 2009.

Nassar, who graduated from Stanford University with a degree in economics, began riding when he was five, and was jumping by the age of 10. He first qualified in 2013 for the FEI World Cup Finals, an annual international competition which includes the most skilled and talented show jumping horses and riders.


Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 
Updated 18 October 2021

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

Mideast films win big at BFI London Film Festival 

DUBAI: The BFI London Film Festival unveiled its winners for the 2021 edition on Sunday, and two regional films made the cut —“Hit the Road” and “Costa Brava, Lebanon.”

“Hit the Road” won the Best Film award. 

Iranian director Panah Panahi’s drama, which showed at the Cannes Film Festival, is all about the journey. It follows a chaotic family-of-four that goes on a road trip in a borrowed car.

“Costa Brava, Lebanon” stars Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki. (Supplied)

“Costa Brava, Lebanon,” which stars Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri and Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki, won the Audience Award.  

Lebanese director Mounia Akl’s impassioned feature film debut is an eerie family drama set amid a raging climate crisis in near-future Lebanon.

Read on for the full list of awards:

“Hit the Road,” Panah Panahi, Official Competition (Best Film Award)

“Playground,” Laura Wandel, First Feature Competition (Sutherland Award)

“Becoming Cousteau,” Liz Garbus, Documentary Competition (Grierson Award)

“Only Expansion,” Duncan Speakman, Immersive Art and XR Competition

“Love, Dad,” Diana Cam Van Nguyen, Short Film Competition (Short Film Award)

“Costa Brava, Lebanon,” Mounia Akl, Audience Award