AMC Networks-backed streamer Acorn TV has snapped up North American rights to Mira Nair’s acclaimed period drama “A Suitable Boy.”
The eagerly anticipated deal, which was brokered with producer Lookout Point (“War And Peace,” “Les Misérables”) and distributor BBC Studios, will see Acorn TV premiere the series to audiences in the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 7.
The six-part drama recently closed the Toronto International Film Festival — the first television title to do so — and also screened as part of AFI Fest’s ‘Special Presentations’ program. An adaptation of the eponymous Vikram Seth novel, which weighs in at around 1,349 pages, “A Suitable Boy” was adapted by “War and Peace” scribe Andrew Davies. Seth also served as an executive producer on the show.
Set in post-Partition North India in 1951, “A Suitable Boy” tells the story of spirited 19-year-old university student Lata Mehra (rising star Tanya Maniktala) as she comes of age at the same time as the country is carving out its identity as an independent nation and preparing to go to the polls for its first democratic general election. Caught between old traditions and new ideas, Lata must deal with her overbearing mother (Mahira Kakkar) who is hell-bent on finding her a suitable husband.
Meanwhile, connected to Lata through their siblings’ marriage, wayward Maan (Ishaan Khatter) falls head over heels for courtesan singer Saeeda Bai, played by Indian screen icon Tabu, and the results are catastrophic for an entire community.
“A Suitable Boy” aired across July and August on BBC One in the U.K., where it was received positively by British audiences. The show filled BBC One’s flagship Sunday night drama slot, where the sight of an all-Indian cast on screen in prime time was a refreshing victory for representation in U.K. television. Ultimately, the production was one of the most expensive commissions for the Beeb, with an estimated budget of around £16 million ($20.8 million).
The show also marked “Monsoon Wedding” and “The Namesake” filmmaker Nair’s directorial debut in television.
“Vikram tells the story of a free India and our people with wit, clarity and love — I am deeply honored to be the one bringing this intimate, epic tale of an unseen India to the world,” said Nair. “Today, ‘A Suitable Boy’ is timelier than ever. With a mix of legendary and cutting-edge actors from the subcontinent, shooting entirely on location in palaces, villages and streets across northern India, we will keep the history and dream of an alternate India alive.”
The series was picked up by Netflix globally back in July (and launched on Oct. 23), but the deal notably excluded the U.S. and Canada, meaning the acquisition is a major coup for Acorn TV. The SVOD, which was acquired by AMC Networks in 2018 via the company’s purchase of RLJ Entertainment, specializes in British and international television with more than 1 million subscribers in the U.S and Canada, as well as viewership in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America.
Don Klees, senior vice president of programming for Acorn TV, said, “’A Suitable Boy’ is one of the most sought after period dramas in recent years, so Acorn TV is thrilled to partner with BBC Studios to bring Mira Nair’s sumptuous, gorgeously-filmed period drama to U.S. audiences. With acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies adapting the landmark novel, beautiful locations and an incredible cast, the six-part series is the latest example of the high-quality period dramas that Britain has excelled at for decades and U.S. and Canadian audiences are sure to love.”
Damian Keogh, managing director of producer Lookout Point, said, “Mira, Andrew and Vikram are three of the world’s greatest creative minds and they have come together to create something very special. This is a visually rich series full of humanity, which brings to life an India we’ve never seen before and puts centre stage two young characters embarking on eventful journeys of self-discovery as they come of age. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Acorn TV to showcase this beautiful, enduring, relatable story to audiences across North America.”
Additional executive producers on the show include Faith Penhale, Laura Lankester, and Will Johnston for Lookout Point; Lydia Dean Pilcher and Aradhana Seth, who were also the producers of the series; as well as Mona Qureshi and Ayela Butt for the BBC. BBC Studios is distributing internationally.