Category Archives: Asian drama

Why should you watch A Suitable Boy?

There were three great post-Independence Indian novels that were considered worthy of screen adaptation ever since they appeared on the scene: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games.

While Rushdie’s and Chandra’s works eventually saw the light of the day on screen, Seth’s 1993 novel, A Suitable Boy, had to wait for the deft hands of director Mira Nair to bring it to life on screen.

Nair has adapted Seth’s doorstopper of a novel, which has the reputation of being one the longest English language novels into a six-part series for the BBC. That’s a feat in itself. Secondly, it is the first time the BBC has had a historical drama cast entirely with people of colour.

A Suitable Boy is set in 1951, against the backdrop of a newly independent and post-partition India. At the centre of the story is 19-year-old Hindu girl, Lata, who is under pressure from her widowed mother to find an appropriate husband. A chance encounter with the Muslim boy Kabir sees Lata fall in love, but their religious differences echo the wider clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the country. When Lata’s mother learns of their affair, the relationship is forbidden. There follows a vast, intergenerational coming-of-age story, involving four families and more than 110 characters over the course of 18 months, right across India. It is a grandiose reflection of a nation coming to terms with a new identity.

The series was three years in the making, and Seth was said to have agreed to the series on condition that Andrew Davies – who has adapted everything from Pride and Prejudice to War and Peace – was at the helm. Even though the series is set almost 70 years ago, it eerily reflects the present atmosphere in India when inter-community relations have strained to their worst.

The series’ director Mira Nair told a newspaper that her goal is for viewers to find themselves enveloped in the often conflicting worlds of India, rather than consuming the show as an inconsequential period piece.

Will the series be as popular and as loved as the novel? The initial reception has been good but only time will give the final verdict.

On taboos, touring and cultural representation: Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference

(From Arts Equator. Link to the complete article given below)

The Sight/Unseen Asian Drama Conference was a two-day event on 26 – 27 April 2018 at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Tara Arts. Billed as an event to “tackle challenging issues facing playwrights in the UK and in Southeast Asia,” participants came all geared up to discuss issues ranging from minority representation to taboo subjects in the region. The conference was helmed by Cheryl Robson from Aurora Metro Books who, in her opening address, emphasised that the project was a labour of love that took her almost a year to complete. The first-of-its-kind conference also doubled up as a platform for Aurora Metro Books to launch its new collection, British East Asian Plays, which featured works from established playwrights such as Stephen Hoo, Lucy Chai Lai-Tuen, and Daniel York Loh who also served as panellists and participants of the conference.

Before the start of the Southeast Asian Plays and Touring panel discussion, participants noticed that something was amiss: there were supposed to be five panellists instead of four. Panel moderator Aubrey Mellor, Senior Fellow at LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore), quickly addressed the issue: playwright Chhon Sina (Cambodia) was denied a visa from her home country to leave. You could almost see the thought bubbles emerging from everyone’s head.

The remaining panellists included Asa Palomera (Korea/USA), Joned Suryatmoko (Indonesia), Alfian Sa’at (Singapore) and Ann Lee (Malaysia): all leading playwrights in their respective countries and within Southeast Asia. Right from the get-go, Mellor pointed out that it is important to remember that the context of touring is vastly different in Asia than in western countries. It is important for us to remember that culture holds a greater standing in western countries like the United Kingdom as opposed to Asian countries (essentially Southeast Asia), whose main priorities are generally economy-inclined. Apart from Singapore, most Southeast Asian countries are generally struggling with different sets of issues, such as the political instability and corruption in Malaysia, which was later cited by Ann Lee. These factors ultimately lead to cut in funding towards the cultural sector, therefore making touring a non-feasible option for most artistic organisations. Secondly, there has been an issue of generalising Asia and Asian culture around the world. For example, Mellor explained that comparing the culture of Thailand and Japan and putting them under the classification of “Asian culture” is simply out of the question because of their stark differences. It is also important to point out that most western countries are still unable to identify the individual cultures in Southeast Asian countries today. Most of my friends, for instance, are unable to differentiate a Singaporean from a Cambodian, and regard “Asian culture” as ultimately a shared one across all the countries. Lastly, Mellor pointed out that there seems to be a lack of collaboration between Southeast Asian countries, with most of the collaborative efforts taking place between Malaysia and Singapore—mostly due to the geographical proximity and shared history. It is also important to note that Mellor’s preface was necessary since there is a persisting misconception that ‘Asian’ usually just refers to ‘South Asians’.

Read more at the Arts Equator link here