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Poster of&nbsp;<i>Made in Heaven.</i>
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Writing and Performances Shine Equally in ‘Made in Heaven’

‘Made in Heaven’ challenges stereotypes by presenting men equally trapped by patriarchy.

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Zoya and Reema’s ‘Made in Heaven’ Examines a Culture in Flux

How much gold is too much when it comes to a big fat Indian wedding? How much drama is shielded behind the silks, gemstones and floral arrangements as the couple prepares to take centrestage? Wedding planners Tara and Karan have the answers to both these questions.

Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala), the ambitious wife of businessman Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh), and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), an industrious young man with a bad run at entrepreneurship, are partners in Made in Heaven. The start-up is giving the bigger players in the wedding business a run for their money. The series is set in New Delhi, which offers up particular and peculiar idiosyncrasies and complexities.

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Ironically, if marriages are made in heaven, the lives of the wedding planners – who are mandated to create magic – are rife with disturbance and restiveness. But besides being event managers, they are often required to be trouble-shooters, counsellors, crisis managers and conscience.

The nine-part drama, created by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, peels back the veils to reveal not just what goes on behind the scenes of Indian weddings, but what goes on behind curtains and behind closed doors – the scenes behind the scenes. Secrets and lies tumble out of closets and yet, nothing can stand in the way of a match made in heaven – or on earth - even if it means succumbing to illogical traditions and superstitions or pandering to outlandish requests.

Each episode, featuring guest actors (including Shweta Tripathi, Neena Gupta, Dipti Naval, Maanvi Gagroo, Rasika Duggal and Vikrant Massey) unique to that chapter, pivots around a different wedding and explores some prejudice, custom, taboo and unfair or illegal social practice.

For all the shenanigans in a wedding house, there is equal, if not more, drama in Tara and Karan’s lives. Other series regulars are Sarbh as Tara’s husband and Kalki Koechlin as her best friend Faiza Naqvi. Shashank Arora plays Kabir, the cynical videographer documenting and observing every event, and Shivani Raghuvanshi is Jaspreet, or Jazz, his colleague from the other side of the tracks, an outsider yearning to become an insider. Other recurring members of the ensemble cast are Yashaswini Dayama, Ayesha Raza, Vinay Pathak, Dalip Tahil and Vijay Raaz.

The catch with a collective of directors is that the texture and tone of the episodes can vary. Three directors - Zoya Akhtar, Prashant Nair and Alankrita Shrivastava – helm two episodes each, and Nitya Mehra takes charge of three.

After a solid and spicy start, the middle episodes do dip before cranking back up to an emotional finish. A later chapter feels like it was an afterthought, slipped in to address monumental issues from late 2018 such as the reading down of Section 377 and the #MeToo storm.

The two pillars of this bold and beautiful show, that examines a culture in flux, are the writing and the performances. Kagti, Akhtar and Shrivastava layer the stories to touch on various contemporary issues, primarily those challenging conventional notions of marriage, parenting and sexuality, as well traditional ones such as class.

The script challenges stereotypes by presenting men equally trapped by patriarchy, and contrasting narrow-minded mothers/women with empathetic fathers/men.

Made In Heaven is also possibly the first Indian series to really push the boundaries of discussion and portrayal of homosexuality, with some scenes potent enough to move you to tears.

Arjun Mathur lets us into the mercurial Karan’s complex and stifled life little by little. His unfettered and moving performance wins the viewer’s sympathy and stays with you long after the last episode. Sobhita Dhulipala’s Tara is stoic for too long, but her reticence has a reason, and she effectively stays within the shades of grey.

Despite his fluctuating accent, Jim Sarbh smoothly straddles Adil’s duality. Arora plays Kabir with a wicked edge, which is great fun. As Jazz, Raghuvanshi is endearing as we follow her character’s coming of age. Your heart goes out to Koechlin as the vulnerable woman caught in patriarchal shackles and one hopes there’s more to come of Vijay Raaz in season two.

The screenplay, supported by skilful editing, expertly transitions from past to present. The art direction, costumes and music juxtapose celebratory feels with lonely, cold spaces.

Made in Heaven unfolds gradually, using the canvas of weddings to paint in themes of deceit, superstition, mistrust, extravagance, desires, dreams, dance, music, indulgence, freedom, dignity, privacy and, above all, choice.

All episodes of Made In Heaven are available on Amazon Prime Video from March 8

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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