Rising Indian star Ishaan Khatter believes that North American audiences will respond strongly to Mira Nair’s newly-launched six-part series “A Suitable Boy” because of its universal themes and the filmmaker’s globally appealing storytelling.
The series, based on Vikram Seth’s novel, is set against the backdrop of the Indian general elections of 1951, and features Khatter as one of the leads. He plays the feckless young son of a respected politician who is besotted with an alluring courtesan, played by Tabu (“The Namesake”). Nair recently told Variety that American audiences are likely to flock to the series at a time when interest in Vice-President elect Kamala Harris is high.
“It could be really interesting for the American audience at a time like this to get an insight into a deeply Indian story, but also I think it has certain universal elements to it that people could connect to,” Khatter told Variety. “I think Mira Nair is an exemplary filmmaker in the sense that she’s able to really put together the Indian cultural nuances. Her style is rather globally appealing.”
Many of Khatter’s scenes in “A Suitable Boy” are with hugely respected Indian actor Tabu. “It could have been intimidating because I really look up to her and she’s one of my favorite actors of all time,” says Khatter. “She was just coming off ‘Andhadhun,’ which I thought she was just really brilliant in. And I was fanboying, but at the same time, we were both looking at each other through the lens of the characters and the first few readings just put us at ease and I realized that she’s really fun, she’s very mischievous, this really easy going person.”
“While we were working, when we were doing the scenes, by that point, there was no feeling of being intimidated by her,” Khatter says.
Khatter debuted with Iranian auteur Majid Majidi’s “Beyond The Clouds” in 2017, where he played a teenage drug dealer who learns life lessons and must change his ways. “It’s something that I was seeking out,” says Khatter. “I really did want to work in meaningful films and I did want to work with filmmakers that gave me that opportunity to play a part that would allow me to immerse myself in that world and display different shades as an actor.”
The actor settled into a rhythm with the director and after a while the language differences (Majidi has limited English and Khatter does not speak Persian) receded, Khatter says. “It reached a point where we formed a sort of language of our own. We were in sync. He would speak to me in Persian and I would go get the shot,” Khatter says.
Khatter’s Bollywood debut was with “Dhadak” (2018). Coming up are horror-comedy “Phone Bhoot” and war film “Pippa.”
“A Suitable Boy” streams on Acorn TV in North America from Dec. 7. It is available on Netflix in multiple other territories.