As someone wise once said, marriages are made in heaven, but so is thunder and lightning. While earlier staying happily married was the challenge, today having the perfect wedding is where the trouble starts. So while the wealthy couple aspires for a heavenly celebration, its wedding planners like Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), owners of the wedding planning company ‘Made in Heaven’ that inspires the show’s title, who handle the messy reality behind the picture-perfect celebrations.
The fourth Indian original series, all nine episodes now streaming on Amazon Prime video, is produced by Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby Productions. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, and co-produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, 'Made in Heaven' uses the big fat Indian wedding as a backdrop to create a deeply insightful image of modern India where class divides, income disparity, patriarchy, and misogyny lurk behind luxurious mansions and coiffed chiffon. It also makes an important statement about the rights of the LGBTQ community, which, while the show was being made, didn’t have the right to love who they wanted, leave alone marry.
Set cleverly in Delhi, Rajasthan and Punjab, where appearances of respectability are crucial, 'Made in Heaven' shows privileged young couples making cold, calculated decisions that are seemingly wrong but never shocking. The holy trinity of prestige, power and paisa (money) often triumphs principles, and in some unfortunate cases love itself.
Written by Alankrita Shrivastava, Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, and directed by Akhtar, Shrivastava, Nitya Mehra and Prashant Nair, each episode of ‘Made in Heaven’ sees the lead pair and their dedicated team manage a high-profile wedding and deal with issues that go way beyond fixing menus and decorating venues. Wealthy parents demand a background check into a middle-class bride, a wedding is stalled because of last-minute dowry demands, a young girl gets molested amidst royalty getting married, a bride kisses the Bollywood star performing at her wedding and a political alliance under the garb of marriage almost takes a life-threatening turn. As Tara quips when a friend asks her why she is stressed, “nothing… just some crazy rich people getting married”.
Not all episodes are an insight into the woes of the wealthy though. The makers balance the series out nicely with a sweet and simple wedding of a 60-plus couple, a warm and intimate wedding of the office peon’s daughter, and a brave young bride walking out of her wedding.
The show cleverly ties up the issues Tara and Karan face professionally with their problematic personal lives. Tara has tried hard to erase her middle-class background to marry rich industrialist Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh). Karan who is still closeted with his parents about his sexuality is in trouble with loan sharks and saddled with long-standing guilt about his cowardice as a teenager that cost him dearly. When Tara realises her husband is hardly the prince she had imagined him to be, and Karan finds himself in jail for breaking an archaic law, they are both forced to confront the lies they have been telling themselves.
Battling issues of their own are Tara’s friend Faiza (Kalki Koechlin) a troubled rich divorcee whose therapy sessions we are privy too, Jaspreet (Shivani Raghuvanshi) who struggles to fit into her south Delhi workplace, and Shibani, (Natasha Singh) a single mom with growing financial burdens. Kabir (Shashank Arora) the videographer, is the moral voice of the series, and it is often through his camera lens that we get the first hints of what might go wrong with this wedding. His voiceovers at the end of each episode grate though. Given that the performances and direction are so good, we don’t need a ‘moral of the story’ to explain what has already impacted us so deeply.
'Made in Heaven' would not be an engaging series without some brilliant cameos by talented actors who shine even in small roles. Watch out for the immensely talented women, Neena Gupta, Shweta Tripathi, Rasika Dugal, Amrita Puri, Maanvi Gagroo and Deepti Naval who are all such a pleasure to watch, it breaks your heart to wonder why they don’t get cast in mainstream films more often. Vikrant Massey as Nawab is memorable, as is Vijay Raaz who is a hoot as Jauhari, a shrewd goon who calmly discusses how severely a man can be beaten up.
While there is a lot the series says through its multiple characters, it’s also an ode to the women of India. Gone are the damsels in distress and the coy blushing brides. The women in Akhtar and Kagti’s world know exactly what they want and make choices that are bold, manipulative, cruel and frighteningly practical. This is not to say that they aren’t relatable or vulnerable. In fact, the show asks through their stories why we are raised to believe that our wedding day is the happiest day of our lives? Why are we as a society so obsessed with getting married in the first place? Why is our sense of self-worth associated so deeply with being married that we can compromise on our principles or choose a possible lifetime of unhappiness to find respectability? The makers don’t offer answers and pass no judgements, but the darkness behind the perfectly lit pictures will haunt you long after you have finished watching the series.
'Made in Heaven' has been made with great sensitivity and love. Go binge watch right away.