More Bollywood passion! CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews weekend TV

Let’s have lots more Bollywood passion, with no strings attached! CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews weekend TV

A Suitable Boy

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Gospel According To Mica

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Lennon and McCartney had the right idea. When it comes to sitars, you can have too much of a good thing.

Bollywood superstar Tabu, who plays the reluctant courtesan Saeeda in A Suitable Boy (BBC1), possesses a mesmerising voice. It was easy to understand how puppyish Maan (Ishaan Khatter) could be seduced by her within the space of a couple of songs in the opening episode last week.

As their love affair deepened, she sang to him again, which was lovely. And then again, by which point it was becoming a little wearisome.

After several minutes, with her song stretching over a collage of scenes, I understood how John and Paul felt when George Harrison was demanding to smother every track on Sgt Pepper in Indian strings and tabla drums. Within You Without You is a great number, George. But once is enough. 

Tabu, who plays the reluctant courtesan Saeeda (right) in A Suitable Boy (BBC1), has a mesmerising voice. It was easy to understand how puppyish Maan, played by Ishaan Khatter, (left) could be seduced by her

The problems with A Suitable Boy run deeper than just the music. Maan is a shallow, dislikeable character — leeching money off his long-suffering father, glugging whisky from a hip flask like a drunk at the races, basking in the unrequited affections of a gay friend. This young man is selfish and spoilt.

His sister-in-law Lata (Tanya Maniktala) is sweeter but equally gauche. At first, her story promised to be a saga of Hindu Juliet and Muslim Romeo, set against the backdrop of India’s new-found independence in the early 1950s.

Lata’s wild infatuation with fellow student Kabir (Danesh Razvi) outraged her family. The lovers kept meeting in secret for dawn assignations and romantic river trips. But when Lata suggested eloping, her boyfriend was aghast. All he wanted, it seems, was a kiss and a canoodle between exams.

Any true Juliet would be heartbroken. Lata simply went to a party and started dancing with a new beau. Where’s the passion in that?

Perhaps screenwriter Andrew Davies has tried to cram too much from the 1,400-page novel into six episodes, but most of the other characters are just ciphers — the grumpy grandfather, the stuffed shirt of a big brother and his unfaithful wife.

Only Lata’s mother (Mahira Kakkar) seems real and moves our emotions, perhaps because she has all the best dialogue. ‘Who will marry her now? We are ruined!’ she wailed, when she heard of her daughter’s unsuitable suitor. ‘What did I do in a past life?’

She wasn’t any happier to see Lata with her new fling at the party, even if he was a Hindu. ‘I don’t think the tango is a nice dance for young people to be doing,’ she huffed.

Christianity was the bedrock of a musical documentary so good that the Beeb showed it twice — once on Friday and again on Saturday. Gospel According To Mica (BBC4) traced the roots of soul, blues and even rap music to the black church and hymns of the American South.

Gospel According To Mica (BBC4) traced the roots of soul, blues and even rap music to the black church and hymns of the American South

Anyone who knows British grime star Stormzy only for his political Corbynite activism might be surprised to realise he is a committed Christian, whose Top Ten hit in 2017, Blinded By Your Grace Pt 2, is a fervent prayer of thanks to God.

Soul singer Mica Paris used Stormzy’s triumphant Glastonbury performance last year to bracket the story of gospel, picking six essential songs, such as Amazing Grace and Oh Happy Day.

Mica ended with a hefty plug for her latest album, which was taking advantage somewhat. But she’s forgiven, for including the sublime Sam Cooke singing Touch The Hem Of His Garment.

She argued that Cooke’s civil rights hit, A Change Is Gonna Come, was gospel of a sort, too. Amen to that.

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