Rich people being rich and doing rich people things. If Zoya Akhtar’s Amazon web series could be described in one line, that would be it.
The Indian original series, which is mostly in English, started streaming on March 8. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, and directed by Akhtar, Nitya Mehra, Prashant Nair and Alankrita Shrivastava, Made in Heaven has extravagant North Indian weddings as backdrops for devolving relationships and incredulously easy rescue jobs from getting into disastrous marriages. In the wake of each wedding is a quick primer on what affluent India’s obsession with weddings can reveal. Typical problems include discreet dowry deals and unrelenting disdain for a 50-plus woman’s desire for a second married life
Made in Heaven unravels through friends Karan (Arjun Mathur) and Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala), a closet gay and a trophy wife respectively, who form a wedding planning company. As their company finds its feet and they stumble from one quirky client to the other, we are exposed to the many dark sides of human nature. It is certain to make you question the adage ‘marriages are made in heaven’ — because humans here on earth really mess it up. While the overarching narrative of the wedding saga remains the trials and tribulations of Karan and Tara, in each new episode we attend a whole new wedding shenanigan. There are the super-rich Roshans who get their future daughter-in-law investigated for since she comes from a different socio-economic background, which of course means that she is a gold digger.
Then there is the Yadav wedding, where the head of a leading political party is marrying his daughter against her wishes for a profitable political alliance. We also have Bubbles who is engaged to be married to a closeted gay and there is an interfaith marriage. And we almost forgot about the big fat Punjabi wedding in Ludhiana, which is preceded by a contest where the woman who wins, gets to marry the US-based groom. Jaded tales of ‘compromise’, societal diktats, patriarchy, tradition — there is a manglik woman who has to marry tree — will make anyone question the sanctity of the institution.
But there are glimpses of hope. There is a small intimate interfaith wedding where the only demand of the bride is a wedding cake and then there is Priyanka (Shweta Tripathi) who walks out her wedding with an IAS officer when he demands Rs 4 crore as dowry.
What motivates Karan and Tara is not only the fat pay cheques, but also the desire to salvage the lives of others because their own are on the verge of falling apart. Tara’s industrialist husband Adil (Jim Sarbh) is cheating on her, and Karan is a closeted gay man. No matter how much Karan speaks out against Section 377 of Indian Penal Code for his own sake and the LGBTQ community to which he belongs, he doesn’t find enough validation and peace in his own life. Ours is a cruel nation for a person whose sexual preferences go beyond the hetero-normative, and the writers of Made in Heaven make a compelling narrative around this struggle through Karan’s journey.
With about 80 per cent of the narrative set in the affluent circles of Delhi — Golf Links, Hauz Khas, Garden of Five Senses — show creators Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti are in familiar territory. But due credit needs to be given for capturing the minute details of Delhi and its residents. The woolen kurta sported by Jazz was de-rigeur this past winter in the metro and all local markets. The chic barsaati, which is Karan’s rented apartment, the DDA flat where Kabir lives, Piano Man, the single-floor white bungalows in Lutyen’s Delhi, all make for an engaging portrait of the city.
Made in Heaven works because all the characters, big and small, have their development curve etched well. This series is also a first of sorts in India where we have recognisable names like Pulkit Samrat, Rasika Duggal, Deepti Naval, Neena Gupta, Manjot Singh and Shweta Tripathi in guest roles. The strong performances make each episode stand out. While Tara is initially portrayed as this ambitious woman, who wants to make a name for herself, and Karan is desperate to ward off his creditors, they both morph into crusaders of sorts. They soothe temperamental bridezillas, negotiate between warring families, help families reunite and rescue a runaway bride. And yes, predictably, they both embark on their respective journeys of self-discovery. One feels Tara’s pain as she realises how her perfect life is actually a farce. Karan’s self-realisation of his own privilege as an educated, upper-middle-class man in Delhi and how even that cannot protect him from being considered a criminal, given his sexual orientation, is one of the high points of the series.
Compiled by: Siddharth Sharma