Censorship & Web Series: What Does the Made in Heaven Crew Think?
Zoya, Reema, Alankrita and Nitya talk about creating content for web as opposed to the movies.
Indian marriages are a melting pot. Culture and modern attitudes combine, friends and relatives from all over gather in one place to celebrate the union of not just two people but families - or so they say. Perhaps that’s what Amazon Prime’s latest original Made in Heaven will try to capture.
Though the makers - Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Alankrita Srivastava and Nitya Mehra - are tight-lipped on the details, the trailer suggests that the nine-episode series will examine the various aspects of love and marriage through wedding planners, Karan (Arjun Mathur) and Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala).
The Quint caught up with the foursome behind Made in Heaven who told us about their collaboration and discussed writing and directing for films vs a web series.
Web series obviously gives you more time to delve into characters but does that change anything for you as far directing, writing is concerned?
Zoya - I mean the biggest change for me is that I realised that you have to cover a lot more pages in much less time. So if you are doing a feature and you are doing two pages a day, in terms of coverage here you’re doing six. So that’s the biggest change, you have to really move otherwise you are never going to cut a budget. Besides that it also trains you, because you want to keep that same standard of quality. You want to keep the same cinematic vision that you have, even on a movie. So that really trains you to move fast.
Reema - I think it’s a long form… and it’s a problem with Zoya and I have, we over write. So I think this long format is really good for us. But it does give you the freedom to develop the characters and your story lines and your plot and your subtext, layers. It does give you the space to do that. But at the same time it is challenging because you are squeezing in three feature films… you know the amount of work you’d do on three feature films.
Would you like to tell us what’s happening over a period of nine episodes?
Alankrita - Well, it’s a story of two wedding planners and as the show progresses you go into the journeys of the two main protagonists. But the episode also has an episodic story about a wedding. So it’s really interesting because you’re with characters for an entire space of the show but also within each episode you’re constantly meeting new characters which is a lot of fun and really seeing what goes on behind these wedding which are fixed and these weddings are supposedly ‘Made in Heaven’.
Nitya - We have had a great run with Amazon because we have had a free hand in terms of writing and directing. And ya, it’s liberating in terms of writing or directing.
You know you have written Gold and now Made in Heaven does the process change for you in any way when you are writing for a film and…
Reema - No, it doesn’t change. I mean the concept changes. The kind of research you do depending on your subject changes. We spend a lot of time talking and researching… When you say a lot of time, like how much… That’s relative, that depends. But then we put down a story and then we move on to screenplay, so that remains the same for us. But what was different this time was that there was a third writer. The wonderful Alankrita and ya, it was fab writing with these two.
Since so many minds were on board, were there disagreements, were there times when you agreed to disagree or you just came to a conclusion?
Nitya - Zoya and Reema created the show and they got Alankrita on board and the minute we all met we were all on the same page.
Alankrita - For me it was really fun to write with Zoya and Reema. Initially I felt like they are so much more senior to me and they have done so much work but it was so liberating actually because I think we have a very democratic working equation and I think that we would argue about things. So I don’t know, I think eventually the thing that made more sense is what sort of stayed. So it was lots of fun and very collaborative.
Reema - Disagreements are inevitable in collaborations but they are also what bring out something special.
Speaking of censorship, did you feel like absolutely liberated this time, especially you?
Alankrita - Well, yes, considering Lipstick Under My Burkha was banned. No but to be honest, I mean I think because we live in India there’s a certain level of you know…But it’s great to have a platform like Amazon to work with because you really don’t have to think about what you can do and what you can’t do. So I think it’s definitely very liberating and at the same time, I think we are all very responsible in terms of…I mean you are only going to show what is needed for the story. But I think it was fun and we didn’t have to censor our thoughts.
Zoya - I mean I definitely see and feel a need for certification not censorship. Because I think you are living in a space and you don’t want children to watch certain kind of content and you do need certification. So you need something that will say this is adult, this is PG 13 or you need parental guidance here. So you need certification and I am completely on for that. But censorship is when you are telling adults you’re not fit enough to view this content. That, I don’t agree with because I think that’s a choice when you go to the cinema you either pay for it or not and as an adult today you can watch anything and everything is available. So why are we in that censorship? And I think that’s where I stand on it and of course it’s liberating. But sexuality… any sexuality is censored on a level on a big screen.
Reema - In a democratic country, there is no space for censorship. I think it’s crazy that in India today an A film also has to adhere to certain cuts and censorship. Basically you are saying that this adult is not capable of processing this or should not be allowed to watch this. There is no space for this in a democratic country. And I think a lot of commissions have been formed, I think the last one being Shyam Benegal’s, where they do recommend that we end censorship and we come up with certification and I hope that at some point the government will stand up and look at this. Because I think it affects the quality of art.
Made in Heaven is available on Amazon Prime from 8 March.
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