Our favourite wedding planners are back, after making us wait for nearly five years, to plan the band, baaja and baraat of Delhi’s high-society with their endless hi-jinks. What is a high-profile marriage if the Sabya-clad bride is not having a meltdown, or a family member is not being a huge embarrassment, or two samdhis are discovering long-buried feelings even as their children are being hitched?
Both the strengths and weaknesses of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti are on full display in the good-looking, high-on-drama-and-emotion season 2 of Made In Heaven, which picks up six months in time after the first season ended. Everything is so gorgeous and shiny, even the grime, that your teeth ache, but the skill with which Akhtar and Kagti and their collaborators (writers and directors Nitya Mehra, Alankrita Srivastava, Neeraj Ghaywan) detail their characters and fill them in with specificity, reflect a sense of inner knowledge and empathy, which makes you curious about what’s going on behind their perfect exteriors.
Here’s where the main gang is at when we come upon them: Karan Mehra (Arjun Mathur) and Tara Khanna (Sobhita Dhulipala), working partners in their fledgling firm still struggling to break even, find themselves in a new office in crowded Chandni Chowk courtesy of their loan-shark Ramesh Jauhari (Vijay Raaz) but saddled with a new boss in the shape of his wife Bulbul Jauhari (Mona Singh), who, in turn, straddles home and office and a complicated personal life with aplomb.
Tara and her estranged millionaire husband Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh) are in the midst of protracted divorce negotiations, with Adil’s lover Faiza Naqvi (Kalki Koechlin) trying to keep a cool head. Jaspreet aka Jazz (Shivani Raghuvanshi), the West Delhi girl trying to unpack the unspoken codes of South Delhi coolth, is struggling to find the right balance with the company’s videographer Kabir (Shashank Arora): are they on or off?
Apart from Mona Singh, there are a few more additions in this season. New employee Meher Chaudhary (Trinetra Haldar, a trans person herself) is a living example of ‘diversity and inclusion’, and makes sure she is not just a representative of a much-maligned and ignored segment but a real person with a beating heart. Ishwaak Singh is here too, as the handsome chef Raghav Sinha who develops a soft spot for Tara, whipping up interesting dishes (there’s a lot of food on many tables in this series, but no one really digs in: do the rich only toy with their food?) and holding her hand through multiple crises.
Speaking of crises, all the shaadis-in-production here are constantly on the verge of being cancelled, leading characters to ask, several times over: is this wedding even happening? So much so that you wonder why the two people in question are even considering it as an option. But one of the things that Made In Heaven does very well is to put the ultra-rich families of the bride and groom front and centre: it is entirely true that in most parts of India, it is not just two individuals who get into a ‘rishta’, it is the ‘parivaars’.
In the attempt of making things different, there appears to have been a search of ‘issues’: so there is colourism (a bride trying to make herself fairer by taking injections being upsold by a parlour), classism (all the haves taking jabs at what they consider gold-digger have-nots), a May-December relationship (older woman, younger man), pernicious-traditions-allowed-by-religion (a Muslim man taking another wife), domestic abuse (a lovely woman hiding marks on her face with make-up), the trouble with half-hearted affirmative action (a Dalit bride wants a Buddhist ceremony of ‘her own’), same sex love (two women and their commitment ceremony, despite parental disapproval).
Often there is so much going on that it borders on being too much of a good thing, but then when a crisis looms, and the Tara-Karan team swings into action, you want all that’s broken to be fixed. What and all do dedicated-to-their-jobs wedding planners have to do, huh? Become agony aunties and uncles? Is it part of their brief, or is it something Karan and Tara gravitate towards– this soothing of frayed nerves of grooms, showing the anxiety-ridden bridezillas the light– because it is who they are, as people? Perhaps, at heart, even the most hardened cynics amongst us cannot resist tales of true love.
There are terrific performances across the board: the immaculate Dhulipala being vulnerable and vindictive, Sarbh showing how much a cad he can be, and yet be caring, Singh being a great addition in her cut-the-pink-champagne-crates crackdowns but softening, inexplicably, too soon, Koechlin swinging between the feelings of guilt and belonging. Veterans Sanjay Kapoor, Neelam and Sameer Soni, their characters triangulated in hurt, are all very good. Haldar laying her heart bare is one of the highlights of the series, and I can watch the whole thing again just for Arjun Mathur, who executes his complex character, full of warmth and weaknesses, faultlessly.
You wish that the series had lost those neat little aphorisms tying each episode so neatly. Why? Don’t the filmmakers trust us to get it without underlining it for us? The only voice-over which works is the one in the wrap, which I’d say is bravely counter-intuitive in a series which is about pyaar-vyaar shaadi-vaadi: not all of us are destined to have that special someone, and that’s fine too. It feels bitter-sweet but real, making you think of the heartbreaks and aches you’ve encountered in your quest for that elusive ever-after.
Made In Heaven 2 cast: Sobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shashank Arora, Vijay Raaz, Mona Singh, Trinetra Haldar, Ishwaak Singh, Kalki Koechlin, Jim Sarbh, Sanjay Kapoor, Neelam, Sameer Soni
Made In Heaven 2 creators: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti