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Loud and larger than life

Everyone on Made In Heaven is so rich! And they’re all terrible. One worse than the other. But that’s rich people for you. They’re so weird. With all their money and property and egos and sparkly shoes. But they’re also fascinating for exactly the same reasons. They are, to use a millennial term that’s as cringy as it is effective, so very extra. The new, wildly discussed Amazon Prime show lays bare the absolute worst excesses of urban upper-class India and its fixation on gloriously turbulent weddings.

The whole thing is a trainwreck in slow-motion, the kind you cannot help but watch even as the world around you disintegrates. To quote but one splendid example: as the baraat rages on at a wedding, there are frantic negotiations between the two sets of in-laws over how much dowry — or, as it’s so shiftily euphemised these days, ‘gift’ — to pay. One party wants to shell out ₹2 crore (only). The recipient demands twice that. Yes.

Loud, bright but right

But let’s back up a little. Made In Heaven, while not without its problems, is really quite good, hence all the buzz. Amazon brings out the big guns in this nine-episode web series created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, done on a scale that I, for one, am not used to seeing on a laptop. Everything is loud and colourful and bright and elaborate and breathtaking. The story goes thus: Tara and Karan (both impressively played by Sobhita Dhulipala and Arjun Mathur) run an ambitious young wedding planning company called Made In Heaven, while maintaining an understated but powerful friendship. (Some friendly advice: if you’re planning a wedding, please don’t hire these chumps; a. they’re fictional, and b. wherever they go, a whole bucketload of trouble invariably follows. They’re a disaster-in-waiting, a two-headed agent of utter chaos and destruction.)

Each episode tracks a new wedding, as the show zooms out to the lives of its two protagonists and their staff, as well as a revolving and revolting cavalcade of entitled rich people who are extra-insufferable on account of the impending wedding. And then everything goes wrong. Every single time.

All through, Arjun faces plenty of hardship, and the show maps his journey, patiently and with care, as a young gay man in 21st century India, with its implicit and explicit homophobia. Tara, on the other hand, has had to mould her personality, coming from humble beginnings and marrying a rich industrialist. It shines a light on the inner conflict tugging at Tara in her inability to reconcile the shift in personality that she has manufactured to fit into this world. She’s steely and poker-faced, but the façade crumbles at times.

What else does this absolute tornado of a series offer? Dowry, affairs, sex-tape scandals (plural), references to a saffron Ruling Party that are a total cop-out, celebrity gossip, arrests, violence, abusive kings, intimidating loan sharks, swayamvars, drug ODs, politicians with a penchant for honour killings. Oh and at one point, a woman marries a tree.

This sounds larger-than-life. But is it really? The central character of Made In Heaven is New Delhi. And I, as a not-proud, born-and-reared Delhi person, can attest that, generally, we people don’t do understated, modest, restrained anything. We are flashy and obnoxious, and doubly so at weddings. The show does falter in its visual depiction of the city — when I close my eyes and think of New Delhi, Made In Heaven’s version is not what I see. Instead we get a Mumbai-gaze version of Delhi. Which is jarring.

Behind the glitter

But that’s neither here nor there. See, Made In Heaven uses the city as a starting point to expose the roly-poly underbelly that rests contemptuously beneath the country’s wealthy elite. The fancy clothes, the constant classism, the heightened reality of the bubble these folks live in (we’re talking ₹5,000-crore empires, a hotel-chain named, curiously, Five Seasons, etc) , the patriarchy and misogyny, the pettiness and drama. The show doesn’t hide these realities behind a visually outsize presentation. Nor does it go overboard. It tries to provide human motivations, feelings and faces behind the evil. There’s a lot of grey, a lot of context, a lot of furious finger-pointing that this exists everywhere. It doesn’t outright satirise or demonise its characters. Though perhaps it should have.

Akhil Sood is an author and a freelance culture writer from New Delhi who wishes he’d studied engineering instead.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 12:06:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/loud-and-larger-than-life/article26544310.ece

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