"Made in Heaven starts from where Monsoon Wedding, Dil Dhadakne do, and Veere Di-Wedding left us," writes Neha Sureka .
When one is growing up, one closely observes their immediate family’s social beliefs and values. Values that are never completely and collectively black or white, right or wrong, correct or incorrect, just shades of societal perspectives and survival strategies to thrive in this world. These influence one’s behaviour, ambitions, and outlook towards life with varied degrees of morality as one cocoons out into the adulthood; thus giving birth to another generation of Greyism. This is the basic premise under which the protagonists lead Made in Heaven.
Now contrary to the above theory, there are layers of hidden beliefs, discrimination, superstitions, immorality, hypocrisy, insecurities within people which surface out, sometimes even to the immediate family only during extreme life-events like birth, marriage, or death.
Marriage, being a social construct, is hence a unique affair, and a litmus test of real modernism, open-mindedness, upbringing, greed, societal pressures, materialism and sometimes even tenacity between the family members. This is the second premise of Made in Heaven exhibited through its weddings.
The story, overlapping between present and past, is an intersection of the above premises reflected through the personal and professional journey of the protagonists, Tara and Karan, who are wedding planners. Such planned weddings, which are mostly affordable only to the high-class, so-called-modern families, have their own closet stories, each revealing hidden orthodoxy of the society. Initially shown as shrewd and ambitious budding planners, their approach to the first few weddings is aimed to clinch the deal even if it meant accepting to intervene in the family’s personal matters which could impact the wedding. They would go to the extent of instigating jugaads to camouflage the families/couples/individuals dirty linen, culminate even the shambling marriages into a success to earn money.
However as life hits hard on the personal front, both the protagonists are forced to introspect into their present struggles which are somewhat caused by their past misdeeds. Misdeeds which were influenced by their upbringing. And as they look into their pasts, guilt brews within, and there comes by a visible change in their approach to the wedding executions too. With a sense of redemption, they start taking a righteous path, calling out the immorality or double standards of the family and individuals. This, despite knowing that the wedding may cancel and impact their pay. Either their attempts take the right direction or are discarded as status-quo by the sufferer, but they do it nonetheless. In their personal lives too, both of them gradually become more forthright, own up to their misdeeds, and take the correct course of action.
The Greyism of the protagonists here is cleverly defended through their upbringings and their negative influences, tiny shot of misdeeds and their consequential struggles, guilt, redemption, and finally transformation to righteousness. The viewers are therefore compelled to empathise with them. I wanted good things to happen to them despite their misgivings solely due to their redemptive transformation. I further want them to have a Phoenix rise in the second season, Tara to find a fulfilling life and partner, Karan to secure his childhood love. This is what is unique about Made in Heaven, unlike the other recently popular series or films like Sacred Games, Andhadhun, or Mirzapur where it has been difficult to wholly like or wholly dislike the grey characters.
The other aspect I could empathise was with the life of homosexuals through the character of Karan. It reminded me of Aligarh, which grappled with similar issue, where the protagonist was victimized for his gay orientation. But it had not moved me as much. Perhaps because it featured a time in his life, when he had given up all hopes to fight, and humiliatingly, and helplessly given up on his life. He was a helpless hero unlike Karan of Made in Heaven. Karan’s life here is portrayed quite vividly, from his childhood, when he hides his homosexuality, gets rebuked for his sexual orientation by his unaccepting mother, remains in the shadow of straight friends. He finally affirms his sexual orientation as an adult, receives untoward and gross treatment from society, and eventually evolves into a stronger and determined person who fight for gay rights. For the first time, I felt so deeply for a gay character, and this deft representation makes LGBTQ rights the third premise of the series.
Coming back to the protagonists, Tara and Karan, despite being only business partners, they seem to share a very strong sense of comfort and solace in each others company, which they did not share with anyone else, not even their parents or best friends. Besides business stakes they have no strings, no judgement, and nothing fake attached to each other. It is the only relationship which seems genuine, and makes immense sense in the labyrinth of numerous bonds and bindings of Made in Heaven. Perhaps genuineness in relationships is thicker than blood.
Both of their character’s complexities are well defined and portrayed. However, this is not true for the rest of the characters. While they contribute significantly towards the story and the protagonists' plots, some of these characters are not developed enough. For example, I would have liked to see more of what goes on in Adil’s mind, who is Tara’s Husband. It is really left to the viewers to decide his shade of grey. because while he is a Casanova, he does seem to have a genuine affection for Faiza. While he is shrewd, he is also vulnerable to get succumbed into malice. While Tara soul-searches her real self and introspects the unhappiness in her marriage, Adil seems indifferent towards the whole thing. However, Faiza, with her emotional dilemmas between friendship, love and betrayal is good. Although, I was curious to know her opinion on Tara’s gold-digging behaviour.
Another character, slightly unfathomable is Kabir, the wedding photographer. The deeper he delves into, the more it left me confused. He is observant, playful, helpful, and casual most times; yet one shot of eeriness at his house takes away all of that. On second thought, I would have liked his role to be limited to that of an observer only, summarising each wedding and bringing forth the pretense and double standards of the society.
Jazz is the best developed character among supporting cast, trying to cocoon out of her ragged background with all her innocuousness, ambitions, desires, mistakes and independence.
Perhaps they are all cues for the next season, or so I hope.
Made in Heaven is nothing without weddings, its quintessential premise. The series scratches the surface of the hypocrisy prevailing in the society through the prism of weddings, each revealing the closed mindset of our society. While the series slaps this mindset specifically on the modern, high-class Delhi society, I feel it can resonate with any strata and any region in India. Pondering over varied issues, it raised many questions in my mind :
- Are some of the so-called love-marriages mere convenient/strategic alliances?
- Should strategic alliances be forced at the cost of love?
- Is it only a misconception that love-marriage shuns dowry?
- Is it also a misconception that modernism abhors superstitions?
- Is marriage the biggest virtue a woman ought to have to feel worthy?
- Is wedding a celebration of togetherness or material benefits, even at the cost of a loan?
- And what is the value of money? Is it an enabler to a purposeful life or just a means to get away with any wrongdoing?
- Should one marry for money or companionship?
It is in these detailed layering of multiple premises and rendering meaning into each of them, that makes Made in Heaven a thought provoking yet entertaining watch. It starts from where Monsoon Wedding, Dil Dhadakne do, Veere Di-Wedding left us. The overlap storytelling between present and past, with subplots and varied characterisation engrosses us throughout the series. And the wedding summaries tie a neat loose bow around each episode to let the thoughts linger on.
As usual, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti who specialise in the high-society genre, captures human nuances like no one else. However, what pleasantly surprised me was Alankrita Shrivastava’s adept direction, considering her previous movie ‘Lipstick under my Burkha’ was a massive failure. Her execution is very meaningful, with no unnecessary obscenity, which web series have commonly become popular for.
Any relationship Made in Heaven is fake and fragile and shambles down easily when the ground reality gravitates. True worth lies in being genuine, grounded, assertive and thereby building a heaven of relationships, friendships and love right here, on this very earth. Hoping to see a crisper second season with more fleshed-out characters and important social issues reflected under the premise of weddings.
Neha Sureka is a Bengaluru-based poet, writer, and blogger. She blogs at nehadaydreams.blogspot.com.