But Made in Heaven comes aquiver with #BoreMatKarYaar lecturebazi, that’s hard to accept.
We looked forward to Season 2 of Made in Heaven because of its promise of decadence. The poisonous beauty of grossly expensive clothes, jewels and locations, the dangerous privacies of unpalatable emotions, sexual conniving, avarice, lies, and every other tamasic indulgence wrapped in hot, charismatic actors and skilful filmmaking. We could have accepted the somewhat discount version of Season 1 production values we got. Although dil hai ki manta nahin, even tried to accept that chef fellow who was about as tasty as a nutri nugget. But Made in Heaven comes aquiver with #BoreMatKarYaar lecturebazi, that’s hard to accept.
The show begins with a maha basic episode on skin colour prejudice. Thereon it cycles from matrimonials-vali fair bride to sologamy with chapters on issues of gender, class, sexuality, caste, Muslim personal law and age. It resembles a gender sexuality 101 course from the kind of college where young elites pay lakhs to learn how to say “that’s problematic” before they leave for “grad school” from where they return with that American-global accent, which would—it seems from watching—make them ideal casting for Made in Heaven.
The show’s constant soundscape of twangy accents made me wonder: is accent the aural equivalent of skin colour on platforms? What is it about these accents and the body language that accompanies them, shorn of what is called Mother Tongue Inflection, that makes them organic to the brick and mortar of this kind of media? What does it mean that we must be lectured so much, in this accent? And why does mumblecore Kabir get to be the intoning uncle voice of the show? Why not Jazz?
The narrative capital of the show—the emotional and sensory weightage that draws us to characters and makes us connect to their humanity—is reserved for the show’s wedding planner protagonists. They are allowed to be grey, unlikeable, complicated, human. In contrast, the episodic characters are cut-outs of an issue, their characters assembled to deliver a schematic sociology lesson—barring the episode starring Neelam. The two strands remain curiously separate—the politics of the episodic arcs never seem to challenge the show’s running protagonists. Their dilemmas are all apparently ‘personal’.
The endeavour is not without positives—let us not take away from the show’s trans inclusion and the beautifully filmed Buddhist wedding. But this listicle approach reduces politics to a finite set of topics, terms and definitions which can be learned by rote. It makes little room for politics as a process of infinite relationality, listening, understanding and constant collective engagement. How else can a show feature an egregious Mehboob ki Mehendi type episode on Muslim bigamy, in the current political climate?
But in this format, social issues exist less for exploration and more for liberal cred and authority. They become a mask for privilege rather than a thinking through of the idea of liberal elite privilege via a narrative.
It is in the commitment to and vulnerability of storytelling, of engaging audiences in the study of life and relationships and letting politics emerge from those complexities, that artistes, audiences and the subjects of stories enter an equal plane. Then we become joined in a collective, if imperfect, act of reflection, simultaneously political and poetic. Without that vulnerability, filmic skill and production values become a little like that global accent so plentifully present in Made in Heaven.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at email@example.com