All the episode in the series depict a wedding that runs into some kind of a problem. Tara and Karan go above and beyond their role to get the wedding done. The issues they solve provide a commentary on the patriarchal rules and the regressive customs that are still being followed in the society. Having enormous wealth does not necessarily bring a progressive outlook. Issues, such as virgin brides, working women, inter-faith marriages, honor killings, blue blood, superstitions, and dowry, continue to make or break weddings.
It is ironical that both Tara and Karan who solve the problems of other people are struggling to get their own little heaven. Tara rose through the ranks to marry a top-shot businessman Adil (Jim Sarbh). She changed herself completely but is struggling to truly become a part of the new world, where her problems are compounded not only by her past shady behavior but also by her husband’s extra-marital affair with her best friend Faiza (Kalki Koechlin). On the other hand, there is Karan who is gay and he is unable to form a long-term relationship with any man. He is still not able to overcome the scars of his childhood where his actions led to the departure of someone who could have been his chosen one from heaven. In addition, the law of the land does not let him be his own self. The show must be commended for showing a gay lead character whose story is significant to the narrative. It is not often that we see a story like this, and too, one that is presented with a lot of affection and realism.
Each episode in the series is based on a theme and uses it to take forward the story of the principal characters. The weddings not just provide a backdrop but also bring nuance to the understanding of the characters. For instance, we see that there is a bit of Tara in different brides. By the end of the series, all the threads are tied and the characters are set for the next stage in their lives.
Episode 1—All That Glitters Is Gold
Episode 2—Star Struck Lovers
Harsimran Mann (Dalai Upadhyay), the daughter of a rich businessman, is marrying Joginder Sethi (Manjot Singh), whose father owns the Sethi Hotel Group. Bollywood superstar Sarfaraz Khan (Pulkit Samrat) is called for one of the functions after which Harsimran ends up sleeping with him. She is so star struck that she puts her wedding and the business deal between the two families in jeopardy. She tries to bury her secret in umpteen mimosas but ultimately her guilt makes it puke out till Karan convinces her to let it go. There is Jazz who gets an opportunity to stay at a five-star hotel for the first time in her life. She, too, is star struck by the space and the freedom that she gets for some moments in the hotel, away from the depressing claustrophobia of her house. Jazz’s clamor for space has shades of Murad’s (Ranveer Singh) desire for space from Zoya Akhtar’s recent Gully Boy.
The motif of this segment was mothers and their emotional blackmail. Gayatri’s children are not amenable to the idea of their mother remarrying. It is only after Karan emotionally manipulates Gayatri’s daughter Siya (Charu Shankar) to make her realize the sacrifices Gayatri did for them, she agrees to come to the wedding. Siya is shown to be a mother herself and her own daughter provides a mirror to Siya to look at her mother from a different perspective. Then, in a series of flashback, we see that there is Tara’s mother Vimla (Manini M. Mishra) who keeps pestering her two daughters to think well about their future and escape their poverty by any means. This is why she is not happy with the decision of Tara’s sister Karuna (Pravishi Das) to marry Ranjan (Karan Mally) who is not as financially well-off. Later, on the birthday of Karuna’s daughter Mira (Aakriti Sharma), Tara brings some expensive gifts which Mira wants to share with her mother but Tara asks her to keep it only for herself. Then, there is Karan’s mother Devyani (Preeti Mamgain) who blackmailed his father to give money to Karan invoking maternal love. All the mothers here are shown to be manipulative.
In a similar vein, the other characters also deal with the price of love. Jazz fraudulently uses her company’s credit card to buy an expensive dress for herself. She planned to try it for a few days and then return it; however, she is fired from the job after the management gets to know about it. Shibani (Natasha Singh) has to pay two lakh rupees for her daughter’s school trip to Paris even though she is struggling to make ends meet and as a single mother, she wants to fulfill all her daughter’s wishes. Karan is caught by the police while kissing another man consensually in his car. He also has to pay a bribe to the police to let him go. At the hospital, Tara has to donate blood to Faiza after her accident even though she knows about her affair with her husband. Whether it is love for self or love for someone else, there is a price of love that each of them has to be pay.
The façade of another marriage of convenience is also shattered here when Renu (Ayesha Raza) finds an explicit video of Karan on the laptop of her husband Ramesh (Vinay Pathak). Ramesh is a closeted gay man but he had to marry a woman because of societal pressure. This helps us understand as to why Renu was always exercising. Perhaps, she blames her weight for the lack of excitement in her marriage. Renu is shattered to learn about her husband’s secret. She starts eating a bunch of sweets, reminiscent of the scene of Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah) in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. Neelam was trapped in a marriage that lost its flavor with time. Her philandering husband Kamal (Anil Kapoor) keeps mocking her eating habits. At one point, after her husband insults her, Neelam stuffs a cupcake in her mouth while standing in front of the mirror. Only after this scene, we realize that she is compensating the love that she craves from her husband with food. In Zoya Akhtar’s earlier films as well, women characters are often seen eating sweets.
In the first episode of the series, there was something different about the way Ramesh talked about Karan which had a homoerotic vibe. The second episode Star Struck Lovers gave away the clearest indication of Ramesh’s sexual orientation. There is a scene where Ramesh’s daughter Mitali Gupta (Yashaswini Dayama) meets Karan and tells him that she is reading Death In Venice (by Thomas Mann) which is about this older man who gets so obsessed by the beauty of a young boy that it destroys him. This actually foreshadows the story of Ramesh as the truth about him emerges in the later episodes.
The theme of impotent husbands continues in the segment when Tara gets to know from her doctor that there is no fertility issue with her, but the problem could lie with Adil and he should get tested. When Adil learns about it, he is taken aback as this attacks his notion of Punjabi virility. There is a bit of Sukhmani in Tara (or vice versa) as well. Earlier, Sukhmani mentions she had joined grooming classes to polish herself. It is later revealed that Tara also joined similar classes. Sukhmani and Tara also share the predicament of husbands with performance issues.
As the episode ends, the voiceover talks about the lack of self-worth of characters. Perhaps, that is why the characters, especially, all the women are seen near mirrors in this episode. Renu, Tara, Sukhmani and Jazz are all seen near the mirrors as if trying to evaluate their worth. Likewise, Shibani argues for a raise and a promotion because she feels she is worth it. The trope of mirrors was also seen in Dil Dhadakne Do where Neelam and Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) were often seen near mirrors thinking about their lives.
But there is also progressivism (something new) from certain quarters. Karan’s mother knew about his orientation all along. She had violently hit him when he was young and told him to never let his father know. And, when the news comes out, it is his father Gautam (Satyajit Sharma) who stands up for his son in front of the media, belying all expectations of his antagonism. In a mirror image of sorts, it is Mitali, a daughter, who stands up for her closeted father Ramesh by telling him there is nothing wrong in being gay, giving him moments of strength.
The theme of this episode was fear and courage. All the characters are trying to hide something here. Geetanjali tries to hide the truth from Nikhil about her wedding to a tree. Karan had hidden his sexual orientation but finally comes out to his parents where he says that he cannot act anymore. It is a moment that will remind of the beautiful scene in Shakun Batra’s Kapoor And Sons (Since 1921) where Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes out to his mother. Ramesh had hidden the secret about himself but he also gets a tiny bit of courage to come out to Karan. Jazz tries to hide her background from everyone. At one point, she even gets off somewhere far from her home when Kabir (Shashank Arora) drops her. But, ultimately, all of them have to come to terms to accepting their own self.
The motif of this segment was protecting the girls. Karan refused to file a case against his landlord because he thought about Mitali who he felt did not need to go through the ordeal. Later, Shibani comes to Tara’s place and reveals the plans of her company to tarnish Karan’s reputation and the reason of her revealing is that she does not want her daughter to grow up in a world that is mean. Karan wants to fight for and protect Pooja. Adil recommends Faiza that she should be independent and move out from living under her parents’ shadow. Tara’s mother comes and asks her to not break up with Adil. All of them are thinking about the future of the girls and standing up for them in what they feel is right.
Later, Jauhari (Vijay Raaz) visits the office of Made In Heaven for a business review meeting where Adil tells him that he belongs to a different world altogether, therefore, his opinion on how to run a wedding business might not be valid here. Jauhari replies that ultimately both are them are businessmen and follow the same underlying principles of making money. He runs a plumbing business while Adil runs an infrastructure business. Speaking in English does not make anyone a smart businessman.
This essence of different worlds is shown in the case of Tara as well. There are two identically dressed sisters at Asma’s wedding who remind Tara of her own sister Karuna. Tara visits Karuna’s home where she sees Karuna happy and content in her own little world with her family even if she has limited means. Tara has got everything in life and yet she is struggling to be really happy. The two sisters belong to two different worlds but essentially they are craving for the same things. Karuna’s husband gets some sandwiches from the street while Tara’s husband refuses to even think about eating gol gappas from the street. Tara transitioned from one world to another world; from an outsider, she became an insider. But she still wants the little world that her sister has made. We see this aspect again when Karan’s friend Sam (Ankur Rathee) asks him to move to a different world in America where he can live a life of dignity after what happened to him in jail. However, Karan refuses to leave his world because this is his home. He will make a life of his own in this world.
The final episode also shows us the characters trying to escape their inner demons. Jazz goes to a confessional in a church where the priest tells her that if there is something that is troubling her, she can speak about it. Agar koi baat ho jo bhoj si ho, bol do. If you have something on your mind that is troubling you, speak about it. We do not get to know what exactly Jazz conveys to the priest but she is visibly relaxed after her confession. It was something related to her infatuation with Kabir whom she had started liking. Karan and Tara also deal with the bhoj (burden) that had been bothering them. Karan finally gets to meet his childhood lover Nawab (Vikrant Massey) where he apologizes to him for his behavior that forced Nawab to go away from school. The guilt of his past actions casts a shadow on Karan’s ability to form long-term relationships and he never really moved on. Karan and Nawab’s last lovemaking happened in a bathroom when Karan’s mother found out about them. It is only befitting then that they find closure again in the bathroom. In the bathtub scene, Nawab literally cleans Karan as if he is helping him clean the soul off his guilt. The scene is very aesthetically shot and shows the beautiful tenderness of love. Moments later, even Tara is in a bathtub where she is with the object of her desire—her jewelry. She also accepts that she cheated her husband by marrying him for money. She is wearing nothing but her jewelry as if embodying the spirit of a golddigger and embracing the guilt that had consumed her. She eventually confesses to her husband and escapes with all her jewelry. Thus, the characters try to escape the guilt that they were living with.
In this episode, the mirrors make a comeback and all the principal characters are again found near mirrors. My particular favorite mirror shot in the episode is when Karan apologizes to Nawab, it is his mirror image that is shown first.
Also, the portrayal of the people of Delhi in Made In Heaven does not feel authentic at places. Characters keep invoking Delhi and its Punjabi culture while in reality, people don’t speak like that. The depiction of Delhi is as real as was the Chandni Chowk of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. For instance, Dwarka is one of the better areas to stay in Delhi but the condescension they show for Jazz who stays there is hard to believe. Also, going by the shops near her house, Jazz actually stays in Malviya Nagar, and not really Dwarka. As Deepanjana Pal notes, “The city in Made in Heaven is how sections of Mumbai imagine all of Delhi to be like.” There is a stark difference that can be seen when a filmmaker who is from Delhi, such as Dibakar Banerjee and Maneesh Sharma, presents Delhi as against somebody who thinks what Delhi is like.
The voiceover at the end of every episode sounded contrived and pretentious. It does not work very well and gives the impression that the audience needs to be explained. The whole track of Faiza was the second most irritating thing on the show. In addition, a lot of these high-society mannerisms have been shown before by Zoya Akhtar in her earlier films. She repeats some of her tropes here. It gives a feeling that we have seen these type of people before. Some of the mannerisms of the rich are too indulgent. Who uses an ustara to shave on his own? Made In Heaven is an exquisitely-made series but there is limited material in it to call it extraordinary. However, it is definitely one of the better series to come out in India.
Made In Heaven shows the society of Delhi as dysfunctional, at times, even dystopian. The people are struggling to make sense of their life. They often cheat not just with others, but with their own self as well. However, the show’s premise insists on being true to yourself. One can want different things in life but at the same time, one should not forget who they really are because as the clichéd saying goes, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when the character is lost, all is lost.”