Murphy’s Law states that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. That explains why just before I sat down to write this piece, my computer froze for about 10 minutes — and just as I called the IT guy, it started working, which led to an awkward 'I-promise-there-was-an-issue-but-I-can’t-prove-it-now' conversation.
Made In Heaven is a bit like that.
In short, Made In Heaven is like life itself.
Zoya Akhtar knows how to portray the good life — films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, often touted as an extended Spain tourism ad, and Dil Dhadakne Do, referred to as Bollywood’s version of Titanic that should have sunk, is a testament to that. With Gully Boy though, Zoya showed she can portray the not-so-good life too, even as many accused her of poverty appropriation.
With Made In Heaven, however, you can have a slice of both — with an extra topping of middle-class thrown in, free.
Set in Delhi, the marriage capital of India, the show primarily follows the lives of Tara Khanna (Shobita Dhulipala) and Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur), their wedding planning business, called Made In Heaven, and the people in their lives — Jim Sarbh as Adil Khanna, Tara’s husband, and Kalki Koechlin as Faiza Naqvi, her best friend, are stand-outs.
And here’s the skeletal summary: Tara is a below-middle-class girl who has ‘clawed her way’, so to speak, into elite circles, marrying her boss, a business tycoon who now is an investor in her business. Karan is gay and hasn’t revealed it to his parents yet (it does come out under unforeseen circumstances), he is hard-working but somehow fails to see his ventures through, and is basically what we’ve come to know as the ‘urban poor.’
But while we may focus mostly on these two — both Shobita and Arjun delivering near-flawless performances in each frame — Zoya’s attention to detail gives you a glimpse into the lives of the supposedly side characters, like Jazz or Jaspreet, an ambitious young girl from Dwarka who gets caught up in an insatiable desire to taste the posh life that she can never afford whilst taking care of her parents and a younger drug-addict brother. Or, Ramesh Gupta (essayed mind-bogglingly beautifully by Vinay Pathak), a middle-aged closet gay man trapped in a seemingly perfect heterosexual marriage — whose only escape from his ‘fake’ reality is through the lens of a CCTV camera he’s installed in the bedroom of his tenant, Karan. (Hell breaks loose when the footage gets out!)
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Nobody is perfect. And neither are their lives. And yes, life always seems greener on the other side, except in the world that Zoya has created, you actually get a peek into the other side as well — and it is bloody dark.
But enough about the storyline — here’s a look at the screenplay and cinematography. Made In Heaven is to everyday lives what Sacred Games was to the dark underbelly of Mumbai’s crime scene. 'Authentic' is the word, I believe. Each episode is spun around a wedding that the Made In Heaven agency is organising — and through that, we’re told a little bit about each character. Which is why each episode almost works in singularity, as a short story, as well as together in totality.
Perhaps for the first time in an English-language Hindi show, the dialogues don't seem forced. There's a natural mix of both Hindi and English — just as you and I would converse in real life — but it neither tries to be an American teenage drama, nor does it want to stand out for its shuddh-sanskaari Hindi.
So, Made In Heaven is a million times better than Four More Shots Please, which showed working women managing to afford plush bath-tubbed houses in South Bombay, the most expensive part of the most expensive city in India — but this too has a few glaring flaws.
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For starters, no matter what the pickle they may be in, the characters never go sex-less. Beds are warm, irrespective of their orientation — and often, sex becomes an escape from the craziness that engulfs their lives.
Money does become an issue, but unlike us truly middle-class janata, they’re actually taking about crores of cash — dad lending Rs 2 crores to his son, which he loses in a failed business, gets taunted by dad, but they’re talking about Rs 2 crores, my friend.
There is always a friend in need. You're in jail, you need money, you're being shadowed by shady money lenders trying to recover their money, you're jobless and struggling to feed mouths — there is always that one friend — or several — who will hug you and say, "I got you!" I just hope the friends I've made in life are watching the show and they are aware of the big shoes they need to fill.
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It’s hard for me to try and put in words, the karmic link that entwines us. Thankfully, this photograph does a far better job than me. From helping me pick out pictures from my first portfolio back in 2006, to wherever it is that I’m standing today - Thank you for all the gifts, @zoieakhtar.. and for holding me, just like this. ❤️ #MadeInHeaven #MontyKoKisneBanaya #WhoIsTheMaker
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A standout character in Made In Heaven is Karan. Talking about Murad from Gully Boy in an interview, Zoya had said men like Murad perhaps do not exist in real life, but she sure hopes they do.
Karan is as surreal as Murad.
Men like that do not exist in real life.
Which is why cinema is such a beautiful medium to escape into.
PS. Watch out for a Gael García Bernal-esque Shashank Arora! An absolute delight!