‘Made in Heaven’ Season 2 series review: Proud, progressive and a tad lost

Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s series on opulent Indian weddings retains its moments of stinging social critique, but also dawdles from time to time

August 10, 2023 12:01 pm | Updated August 13, 2023 06:45 pm IST

A still from ‘Made in Heaven’

A still from ‘Made in Heaven’

Like paan and sweetmeat at the end of a sumptuous Delhi wedding, no episode of Made in Heaven is ever complete without its closing voiceovers. I’m referring, of course, to the glum subtextual summaries offered by Shashank Arora’s moony videographer. “A grim fairytale continues to haunt the capital city of Delhi,” he says an hour into the new season, like an opinionated old friend making a comeback on social media. “I don’t believe marriages are made in heaven,” he continues around halfway through. As turgid and self-evident as these narrations are, they can also come in handy, recapitulating the essence of an episode in case you happen to lose its thread.

Released in 2019 and created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti (writer-director Alankrita Shrivastava is a third constant), the first season of Made in Heaven was a sharp satire on classist Delhi. Through the story of two upstart wedding planners, it peeled back layers of conservatism and conformity embedded in India’s business elite. The season had ended with Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur) in a mess, the plush office of their ‘Made in Heaven’ agency razed and defaced by right-wing goons. In Season 2, we catch up with Tara and Karan six months after the fact, with Jauhari-ji (Vijay Raaz), now an active partner in their firm, assisting them back to their feet. Mona Singh joins the cast as a no-nonsense auditor—as well as Jauhari’s wife—and brings a delirious screwball zip to the initial episodes. “You ordered three large burgers?” she skinny-shames Jaspreet aka Jazz (Shivani Raghuvanshi). “With fries too?”

Made in Heaven Season 2 (Hindi, English)
Creators: Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti
Cast: Sobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur, Jim Sarbh, Kalki Koechlin, Shashank Arora, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Mona Singh, Vijay Raaz
Episodes: 7
Run-time: 60-75 minutes
Storyline: Delhi wedding planners Tara and Karan revive their ‘Made in Heaven’ agency while running up against newer and tougher social conflicts 

Even as Tara and Karan score some ‘big-fish’ clients and gradually edge back into the game, their personal lives bear down. Karan, who carries adolescent trauma relating to his sexuality, is being emotionally blackmailed by his homophobic mother (she’s wasting away to cancer and refusing chemotherapy). It sends him on a spiral; he falls back into gambling, runs up debts, starts using heavily. Tara, meanwhile, is divorcing her industrialist husband Adil (Jim Sarbh) after he relapsed into an affair with childhood friend Faiza (Kalki Koechlin). Dissuaded by the paltry settlement terms, Tara is convinced by her mother (a wonderfully lived-in Manini Mishra) to demand a bigger share of the pie.

Each of the seven-hour-long episodes revolves around a single wedding or two, and tends to magnify specific conflicts. The first season of Made in Heaven had touched upon—and, in some cases, wrestled headlong with—issues of dowry, ageism, superstition and sexual assault. This time, it adds colourism, caste prejudice, polygamy and domestic violence to the list. There are moments of stinging social critique; the domestic violence episode, for example, wraps up in a way that’s both unsettling and revealing about the psychology of abuse. But there are also storylines that dawdle or go nowhere, like a particularly garbled interlude in France.

In the fifth episode, directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, Pallavi (Radhika Apte), an Ivy League-trained lawyer and author who’s outspoken about her Dalit identity, flies down from New York for her nuptials. She wants a court marriage; when the in-laws demand a ceremony of traditional pheras, she asks for a Dalit wedding as well. It’s the toughest, most confrontational episode in the series; told by her beau that she’s being “paranoid”, Pallavi flips open a newspaper full of upper-caste matrimonials. Radhika Apte’s performance has the assertiveness of a Ghaywan heroine—Richa Chadha in Masaan, Konkona Sen Sharma in Ajeeb Daastaans—yet the episode, while feeling vital and challenging, lacks the complexity and visual poetry of the director’s earlier work.

However, with its episodic beats getting repetitive, Made in Heaven opens up a lot of breathing room for its secondary and tertiary characters. Adil’s half-sister shows up, staking her claim much like Tara. Jauhari’s school-going elder son gets caught in a police probe, likely inspired by the ‘Bois Locker Room’ scandal in Delhi. Trans doctor-turned-actor Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju makes a memorable debut in an appreciable part; after a few customary scenes that are gender sensitization 101, her character nicely comes into her own. I kept wishing for more of Koechlin, though, one of our finest actors so often relegated to the wings.

Dhulipala’s presence gets a bit lost in the sheer narrative density. Her layered and empathetic portrayal of a socially ascendant female entrepreneur — the kind of East Delhi girl who took grooming classes and spruced up her English in order to fit in — was a standout in the first season. Here, though, adrift and hard-pressed in a legal battle, she has limited opportunities to shine. Tara, Adil and Faiza aren’t as effective as feuding factions as they were as a messy trio. Mathur is reliable as ever, holding on to Karan’s softness and dignity and humour. Raghuvanshi, too, locates a genuine growth in Jazz. There is a Farah Khan musical’s worth of guest turns in the series as well; take your pick between Sanjay Kapoor yelling “What a place! What a place!” and Anurag Kashyap trying to look serious about casting Pulkit Samrat in a movie.

“Same-sex marriage isn’t legal in India,” says an interviewee to Arora’s camera. “They will be,” assures another, nodding. With the Supreme Court reserving its verdict on petitions seeking legal recognition for gay marriages, it will be interesting to see how this optimism aligns with ground realities… and how soon. Akhtar and Kagti have created a kind, progressive series in Made In Heaven. Here’s hoping it’s not remembered as wishful.

Made in Heaven is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video India

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