The way Made in Heaven progresses, it often comes across as hell made in heaven. Almost all the characters of the Amazon Prime Video Original, whether principal or fleeting, go through hell. But a sensitive gaze and empathetic insights allow the hell to be unleashed in a rather heavenly way. The edges are never smooth but the characters are not judged by the writers either.
The nine-episode season 1 of the show is created by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, and releases immediately after the success of their coming-of-age musical Gully Boy. But here, the relatively more liberal medium lets the writers in them get the better of the directors within. Here, they do not share the combined burden of telling their story authentically and adhering to box office diktats. Since there is no censorship either, the narrative never holds itself back. The Dil Dhadakne Do co-writers explore class, gender, sexuality, and the lens through which they see these burning issues is absolutely unapologetic.
The tone of Made in Heaven is in conformity with the Amazon Prime Video Originals that Excel Entertainment has produced so far. Like both Inside Edge and Mirzapur, the pace is slick and the treatment is edgy. But thanks to its theme, and the role of four female writer-directors in shaping the screenplay, when the narrative peels off gradually, the coldness gives way to a beating heart. A strong emotional core remains conspicuously absent for most part of the show. But towards the end of the show, emotions take a stronghold, empowered by idealism that is rooted in everyday reality.
Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) are partners in a new wedding planning firm called Made in Heaven, based in Delhi. While Karan starts this business after a failed nightclub venture, Made in Heaven is Tara’s attempt to sustain her individuality after marrying her former employer and rich entrepreneur Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh), who has also heavily invested in his wife’s maiden firm. While a new marriage serves as a new episode, the two lead characters undergo parallel journeys of struggling with their personal identities. Karan is a closet homosexual, living in a rented apartment in Delhi, who is sick of concealing his sexuality (parts of Section 377 have not been repealed yet). Tara has come a long way, from a lower middle-class Dwarka girl, who groomed herself to become the personal secretary of her would-be husband. She constantly fights the battle of losing connection with her roots.
There is another parallel track involving Jaspreet Kaur (Shivani Raghuvanshi), who is a lower-middle class girl employed as a production assistant in Made in Heaven. Though she masks her humble origins by borrowed (or stolen?) dresses and the pseudonym Jazz, her ideas are a mix of convention and innovation, the right concoction needed to pull off a simple yet sweet wedding. She gravitates towards the wedding photographer Kabir Basrai (Shashank Arora), but the class divide often seems a perceived barrier.
While these tracks form the backbone of the show, the novelty resides in the episodic big fat Indian weddings. The degree may vary but every wedding is destined to go wrong here. It is as if the blunders were also made in heaven. *Possible spoilers ahead* The varied screw-ups include parental discord over a second marriage; the bride sleeping with a guest; dowry — that too from a socially concerned IAS officer’s family; a self-respecting bride’s objection to her future in-laws getting her background checked through a detective; a beauty competition to choose the bride for a US-based man; a groom’s resistance to see her future wife get married to a tree first because she is a maanglik; the molestation of a young mehendi girl; and thwarting of an inter-religion marriage in favour of a forged political alliance. *spoiler alert ends*
The way the first three episodes end on a cliffhanger seems forced, just to lure the viewers into binge-watching. The writers seem to struggle till then to adapt to the new medium. However, once the emotional aspects kick in and the characters are established, along with their interpersonal dynamics, the story takes the much-needed plunge. The lines between the personal ordeals of the lead characters and their professional realm blur.
The strong emotional undercurrent, the riveting sub-plots and the masterful merger of technique with content are powered by measured performances in Made in Heaven.