“Made in Heaven believes – the wedding should celebrate the couple. The theme should tell their story. Love. Birds. Roses & Skies. Pink & Blue. Blush & Sparkle. This is your wedding”
That is the world of dreams that wedding planners Tara Khanna (Shobhita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) want to sell to their clients and see it through execution. These are no ordinary clients or no ordinary weddings. These are big fat and pretentious Indian weddings in the truest sense, where wedding budgets run in crores and the profit from each sale runs in lakhs. Doesn’t matter if it pushes even the super rich families to enormous debts, there are huge obsessive egos and obnoxious societal impressions at stake. Doesn’t matter if the planners themselves are ducking their lenders (including close families) every month, or are not able to take care of the legitimate asks of their backbone breaking loyal team thereby losing them, its the world of vulgar showbiz they are in and only glitter sells. And certainly doesn’t matter, if the dreams they sell of heaven are all executed through experiences of hell, and there is abundance of cruel and ugly mess hidden under the grandeur of beauty and heaps of wealth at every layer of society.
Amazon Prime Video’s new series Made in Heaven is a terrific take on the complexities of human behavior and societal hypocrisies, and is certainly the most engaging Indian web series I have seen on a digital platform to date. Nurtured under the creative minds and a dominant female gaze of Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Nitya Mehra and Alankrita Shrivastava together with Prashant Nair, the nine episode series becomes such a fulfilling experience because it is an extremely self aware inside-out take as well as an aspirational outside-in view of the colliding worlds of the super rich, the super ambitious and the super introspective at the same time. There are no clear cut black and whites in this world, every one wears a thick internal shade of grey underneath their designer labels, they are all reeling with the guilt of sliding morales or haunting pasts, they are all trying to fit in and find acceptance, and they all have their visible sensitive and compassionate sides at play, thereby making them broken individuals seeking empathy for their messy lives. In fact, as Tara and Karan go through some of the most patriarchal, regressive and outright dumbfounding experiences of the various weddings that they organize in each episode, one can see how many of them only offer a mirror to their own internal selfs and experiences, and hence humanizes their zeal to often go beyond the needful to ‘fix’ and reform things.
Made in Heaven flourishes on its superlative writing. The deeply nuanced and layered commentary of dysfunctional families and their super messy inmates are richly borrowed from the experiences of life, and narrated as they happen sans any explicit moral judgement. Often told through the outside-in perspective of Kabir Basrai (Shashank Arora) who is incidentally also filming his own documentary on weddings, thereby subtly impersonating the filmmakers within the series, the episodes smartly cut in to the perspectives of Tara and Karan as well, juxtaposing the narrative with their origin stories and hence marrying their struggles with the stories of infidelity, greed, dreams, ambition, escape and soul searching within and around them. Both of them are outsiders in a way as well with their middle class roots or sexual preferences, and are desperately trying to fit in to worlds that are alien to them or has alienated them. Surrounding them are the stinking rich realities of Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh) or Faiza Naqvi (Kalki Koechlin); or the Karans and Taras of tomorrow in Kabir or Jaspreet Kaur (Shivani Raghuvanshi); or their families, friends and neighbors who have all chosen the ethics, the truths and the values they want to compromise on in order to seek success and make peace. Made in Heaven is able to flush out the contradictions and scratch apart the layers of each of these characters however big or small, in most engaging ways, painting their well rounded arcs with the most vibrant and yet understated emotions of human frailty.
Some marvelous casting decisions and super strong performances do complete justice to the foundation of fabulous writing for the show. Arjun Mathur is outstanding as Karan, struggling with his own darkness to make internal peace with his sexuality, and seamlessly breaks every single notion associated with portrayal of homosexuality on screen with a super sensitive performance. In fact, sexuality in general has never looked so aesthetic on Indian screen before. Shobhita Dhulipala has a complex character arc, while she plays Tara with a lot of groomed poise and elegance that her class demands, at times one wishes there were warmer and more emotive expressions to better portray her insecurities of gutter to glitter journey. Shashank Arora makes the highest impact with all his smirk & snobbish expressions in spite of the limited screen time and dialogues (his monologues could have been optimized at places though), and will remain my most favorite character of the show. Rightfully, he is given the most sketchy backstory of the six central characters making him the most ‘neutral’ and disengaged voice of conscience of the overall narrative. Kalki Koechlin can never go wrong and is an example of complete confidence on her craft. She effortlessly excels yet again. This is the first time I got truly impressed with Jim Sarbh, he was surprisingly restrained and I am so glad that the makers did not use his typical mannerisms to hamper with the subtle mood of the show. Shivani Raghuvanshi is slightly uneven, but does extremely well at places in blending in a unique grounded voice to the entire ecosystem. The rest of the ensemble in Natasha Singh, Vinay Pathak, Vijay Raaz, Ayesha Raza, Neena Gupta, Dipti Naval, Vikrant Massey, Rasika Dugal, Shweta Tripathi, Amrita Puri, Neelu Kohli, Yashaswini Dayama, Manjot Singh, Satyajeet Sharma and many others together make for a stellar supporting team and enhance the taste of the entire offering with their own unique flavors and spices. Add to it, the terrific technical team of rich cinematography, sharp editing, opulent production design and finely blended music (I hope they release the complete soundtrack separately) working in complete conjunction with the screenplay and performances, and we have a delicately balanced and delectable spread of human stories, garnished with wholesome chutzpah of deceit, duplicity, pretence and fading morality.
“They say marriages are made in heaven. But on the ground, the realities are slightly different” – No they are very very different! And Made in Heaven is an intimate, rich and a harsh portrayal of all of that, exposing the hollow behind all the glitz and glamour, telling stories of ambitions, obsessions, failure & acceptance, and seeking the ever elusive heaven via journeys through hell!
Drop everything and binge watch this series right now! Its worth your every second!
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