‘Made in Heaven’: The truth about Indian weddings isn’t so pretty
It’s well known most Indian weddings are lavish, week-long affairs. The ceremonial antics never stop, planning is done months (if not years) in advance, and the costs involved are often astronomical. That’s why, to add to the costs and allay the stress, the elite strata of the Indian society hires wedding planners like in Made in Heaven.
This is where best friends Tara & Karan come into the picture. Their wedding planning company, Made in Heaven, is up against another company called Harmony, that’s been in the game for longer.
What is Made in Heaven about?
Made in Heaven shows the ups & downs of the wedding planning business: everything from the risks of a last-minute wedding cancellation, the draconian test of virginity, and modern aspirations of independent couples to obnoxious pre-wedding photoshoots portrayed in all their preposterous glory. Often one wonders if the Made in Heaven team are wedding planners – or firefighters.
In Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti’s grandiose brainchild, the stellar cast wears the characters like their own skin. Arjun Mathur as Karan & Sobhita Dhulipala as Tara are a treat to watch. Arjun battles his need for validation and acceptance of his identity, while Sobhita struggles to stand on the ground built upon her class struggles. They may seem an odd choice for protagonists, but the more you watch, the more sense it makes.
Love has a price tag
Made in Heaven subverts the very thing it sets out to expose: the sham behind the “happily-ever-after” patriarchal fantasy of marriage. No episode does it better than “The Price of Love”. The episode looks at the dowry, a custom in Indian weddings whereby the family of the bride pays the groom’s family to marry their daughter. As anachronistic as it sounds, the custom still lives on in certain parts of the nation.
In this case, a young couple – Vishal & Priyanka, both accomplished, both independent – decides to get married and fund it themselves. In the backdrop of a beautiful wedding punctuated by Priyanka’s smiles, we find greedy in-laws refusing to enter the venue without being paid a gigantic sum in the form of dowry.
Not only is it a rude shock for the parents who practically go broke in appeasing the in-laws, it’s also a breach of trust by Vishal. When Priyanka finds out, she walks out, leaving him at the altar.
“I am not going to pay anyone to marry me” are Priyanka’s last words as she walks off once and for all, giving way to the narrator’s now-famous statement”: “That’s all it took to show up the chauvinist hidden deep in the supposedly progressive Indian man. Our women don’t deserve this. Our women are better than this.”
The montage that follows looks at Tara & Jaspreet taking charge of their wrecked lives too, in the audacious hope that there’s something left to salvage.
Protagonists with substance
As far as the cinematography is concerned, Made in Heaven follows two parallel arcs just as beautiful as the weddings that Tara & Karan set out to plan. On one hand, each episode is dedicated to a specific wedding (and the metaphorical demolition of the perfection it assumes to represent) and on the other hand, Tara & Karan jump through the hurdles in their way.
For Tara, her past haunts her: she came from a poor family then married rich and is now faced with the ignominious decision of whether or not to forgive her husband for the ultimate marital sin of adultery. Karan’s a gay man in a world that still clings to the idea of heteronormativity and conformity to status quo.
Even though these characters seem like outsiders in the world, they never once seem out of place. There are no “others”, because no one really fits in.
Before Made in Heaven, Anushka Sharma vehicle Band Baaja Baarat was the go-to portrayal of the quirks of the Indian wedding-planning business. While its protagonists are authentic, the plot still comes across hackneyed. Band Baaja Baarat did little more than entertain (and launch both Sharma & her costar Ranveer Singh into superstardom), so Made in Heaven is a breath of fresh, authentic air.
Made in Heaven forces us to accept that our obsession with societal perception often borders on vulgarity; that someone who spends so much effort on wedding ceremonies peppered with vows about forever-together can be a tragic cuckquean; and – most importantly – that our hypocrisy might only matched by thirst for vengeance.