Try Made in Heaven-1 first

For those of you who binge-watched the first season of  Made in Heaven (2019), MIH-2 comes as an extravagant second course at an Indian wedding. Actually seven courses. If you didn’t, try Season 1 first for the narrative’s sake. It helps! 

The brief recap does not do justice to the circuitous lives of the main characters in the first season, or the electric performance of the highly ambitious and seductive Tara played by the stunning Sobhita Dhulipala. The amorous seduction leading to marriage between Tara and Adil Khanna (the brilliant Jim Sarbh) provided scandalous insights into the Delhi elite.  

Tara runs an eponymous high-end wedding planning business with her best friend  Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), a vulnerable and conflicted gay man. Tara’s husband Adil – a multi-millionaire businessman – has an affair with Faiza Naqvi (Kalki Koechlin), Tara’s best friend. By the end of Season 1, the Khannas’ marriage could not be salvaged, but Karan won a public battle for gay rights.

Everybody loves a good desi wedding

All my friends have been waiting for the second season to drop. After all, it’s the wedding season and everyone loves a big fat Indian wedding with band, baaja, baraat

But MIH – the brainchild of writer-directors Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti  – is no Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Zoya Akhtar dexterously unmasks the treachery, hiccups, and ugliness behind the high teas, heritage mansions, and yacht trips to the French Riviera for celebrity shaadis

On paper,  the planners are tasked only with decor, venue, entertainment, and food; but Karan and Tara are more than just wedding planners. They stand in as friends, confidantes, beauty consultants, babysitters, shrinks, psychics, or soothsayers, to bridge the class and generation gap. They have to think fast and on their feet to make the wedding happen without losing money on extravagant venues, exorbitant hors d’oeuvres, and expensive spa days. 

While the high-strung and high-maintenance couples are ensconced in dysfunctional families, the employees of the MIH agency have their own personal dilemmas. The beautiful and enterprising Jaspreet “Jazz” Kaur (Shivani Raghuvanshi), tries hard to shake off her working-class old Delhi roots with faux pas like this one: “Should I make the champagne pink by adding a splash of Rooh Afza?”  

Kabir Basrai (Shashank Arora), MIH’s in-house videographer, left me baffled. He videotapes how the couples meet and adds a cynical footnote at the end of every episode to feed a documentary. Yet he turns down a lucrative opportunity to study in New York.

This image is a scene from Made in Heaven Season 2. It shows two shots of two women talking, each shot shows one face at a time. (Image Courtesy: Made in Heaven, X)
Image Courtesy: Made in Heaven, X

Behind the designer veil

The seven episodes that comprise Season 2 are binge-worthy but darker. They take on toxic social issues that are prevalent in India: colorism, caste and gender discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, name calling and domestic violence, and polygamy.  I was taken aback by the colorism narrative of the first episode, Mirror Mirror on the Wall. I thought the Fair and Lovely days were over but… 

Though the planners and the groom encourage Sarina (Zayn Marie Khan), a dusky bride, to love herself, she applies skin brighteners and glutathione because “all Bollywood heroines are doing it” and “the bride should not be the darkest in the photos!”

I cringed as I saw the abusive groom (Siddhant Karnick) convince his bride (Mrunal Thakur) in a last-minute meltdown that he needed help and her love to be a better human being.  I am glad that the episode outlined the modus operandi of a typical abuser: praise, adulation, isolation, spying, and violence.  It is a travesty that domestic violence is pervasive in all strata of society. 

Bull’s Eye

Season 2 has many strengths. The acting, plots, and characters are consistently engaging. Dhulipala and Mathur are perfect in their roles. We know that though they squabble, their bond is strong enough to survive business and personal mishaps.  While Tara mourns the loss of her luxurious home, limousines, an expensive wardrobe, and friends to show it off to, Karan struggles alone, unable to make peace with a mother dying of cancer, who never accepted his sexuality. Mathur delivers a powerful performance trying to find the love that he never received. Sanjay Kapoor shines in his role as the greedy Punjabi father of the groom. 

The ethereal picturization of the Buddhist wedding with the bride walking through a lotus pond was a treat to watch. Such a dramatic contrast with the strident voice and gaze of the fierce Dalit activist played by Radhika Apte, who fights for equality to the point of nearly upending her own wedding. The fact that her brother does not want to be known as a “quota’ student is another significant moment. 

A bride walks through a garden
A Dalit Buddhist wedding in Season 2 of Made in Heaven (image courtesy: Prime Video)

Dia Mirza as the beautiful Shehnaz whose marriage was a simple affair with just the Kazi and Rooh Afza is devastated when her Muslim husband marries a much younger, blonde, white woman because he legally can. It took guts to portray this.

The cinematography captures beautifully the gorgeous off-beat wedding venues, stunning bridal couture, and heartwarming appearance by celebrity designer, Sabyasachi. The elegant achkans, jackets, and bandh gala suits for the men were just as stunning. 

The Blind Spots

What weighs down Season 2  is the onerous task it takes on of tackling too many socio-cultural fault lines. The episodes are long. The summary narrations that hem the episodes explaining the characters’ choices are more tell than show. I wonder if patriarchy is so embedded in Indian society, that even progressive filmmakers like Zoya Akhtar and Deepti Katgi cannot shake it off. 

Tara’s new boyfriend, a chef called  Raghav (Ishwak Singh), has an insignificant role. He may be good at dishing out appetizing keema paratha samosa bites, but their romance does not sizzle.

Jazz and Kabir’s in-love-out-of-love is not engaging. Adil and Faiza’s selfish hookup is not endearing either. They are both self-serving upstarts, together only for convenience.  

The Gems

Completely unexpected and refreshing is MIH’s new head of production portrayed by a trans woman, Meher Chaudhary (in real life, a transwoman called Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju). She is striking. With a tall, kempt frame, a husky, even-toned voice, and a calm manner, Meher is a go-getter.  She is the ideal wedding planner. Her personal quest of finding love and dealing with prejudice is portrayed with a delicate sensibility. 

Also joining the central cast is Mona Singh as the inimical Bulbul Jauhari. She owns her scenes with verve, outspokenness, and confidence. Bulbul is the beloved wife of company investor Ramesh Jauhari (veteran actor Vijay Raaz, Monsoon Wedding), and MIH’s new auditor. Their coupling and backstory make MIH Season 2 much stronger. Ramesh Jauhari’s performance is understated, but his relationship with his wife shines through. Bulbul brings her stereotypical middle-class aunty thriftiness to cut the frills and flounces off the MIH team’s budget. Jazz, Kabir, and Tara are shocked by her in-your-face Delhi vibe, but slowly start appreciating her intuitiveness and compassion. 

I absolutely loved the cute Christian couple played by Sarah Jane Diaz as Julie Mendez and Imaad Shah as Roman Lloyd. Their parents seem so real, hurling accusations at one another because of the age gap and a baby on the way. The peppy dance number and gaiety brought back memories of my school days in Bombay (Mumbai). The rustic wedding in the woods, the bride’s dress, hairdo, and simple jewelry were charming! The gorgeous bride setting her “baby groom” free to pursue his musical career at Berklee College of Music and still having a celebration was superbly presented!

Natasha Rastogi as Bindu Khanna, a typical aggrieved mother-in-law who reveals her true colors when she fears losing her home, is a clever twist that brings out the similarities between her and her daughter-in-law, Tara. 

YouTube video

Could Made in Heaven Season 3 be less elite?

With the appearance of Adil Khanna’s half-sister (Nirvana Sawhney), Faiza’s pregnancy, and an encounter between Tara and Adil culminating in the Khanna house having a new owner, there is enough masala for  Season 3. I would love to see the complex stories of ordinary marriages of Delhites who live on earth and not in heaven. Season 2 brought back memories of Meera Nair’s Monsoon Wedding where Alice (Tillotama Shome) and P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz) marry in a simple ceremony with marigolds, and then eat the flowers, gazing into each other’s eyes! That image, too, was made in heaven. 

Made in Heaven 2 is Streaming on Prime Video.

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Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two...