Made In Heaven 2 review: Band, Baaja, Baarat, with a dash of social commentary
A still from the web series

Made In Heaven 2 review: Band, Baaja, Baarat, with a dash of social commentary

Made in Heaven Season 2 is grander and more socially provocative than its predecessor. In its pursuit to entertain, inform and charm the viewers, it succeeds in doing all three in equal measure.

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The shaadi season is on. The Delhi elite is all set to put up a grotesque display of wealth. Our favourite wedding planners running the agency, Made in Heaven, are back in action too, albeit this time, they are operating from a new location or as Jazz (Shivani Raghuvanshi) puts it “a new office where you cannot do fashion”. Tara (played by the ravishing Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (essayed by Arjun Mathur) have to walk all the way up to the first floor of their Hauz Khas office, where Mr Jauhari (played by an endearing Vijay Raaz) presides over the office meetings.

Having bailed out Made in Heaven, the company, in the last season, Mr Jauhari is now a board member and gets to call the shots on profits and hiring, much to Tara and Karan’s dismay. He hires his wife Bulbul Jauhari (played to perfection by Mona Singh) as the accountant whose cost-cutting measures can put Monisha Sarabhai (Rupali Ganguly in Sarabhai vs Sarabhai) to shame. In one scene, she asks Jazz to explain why she ordered three burgers (and pink champagne to accompany it).

Mona Singh steals the show as Bulbul

The English-speaking Delhi elite clash with the West Delhi folks who now have a seat at the table and demand equal respect. Made in Heaven Season 2 is bigger, grander and more socially provocative than its predecessor. The sets and weddings are lavish, the champagne is always cold, vibes are warm and no flower is out of place (including the plastic ones added on Miss Bulbul’s suggestion).

The show critiques the Delhi elite and its obsession with white skin. In the first episode, couturier Sabyasachi himself makes a cameo appearance and styles the bride, Sarina, in a custom-made lehenga but that isn’t enough to impress West Delhi aunties who feel the colour makes the bride look dusky. Sarina, the bride in the first episode, is forced to get vitamin injections to lighten her skin by her in-laws, much to the dismay of her fiance Aman, who calls out this toxicity.

Cameos, cameos…everywhere!

In the third episode, Samir Soni and his wife Neelam Kothari play star-crossed lovers who couldn’t marry each other due to fate. Neelam plays Kriti, a middle-aged woman, who is married to Ashok (played by Sanjay Kapoor). Kriti is still in love with Gulshan (Samir Soni), who is also unfaithful to his wife, Vaishali. The episode is a treat to watch, thanks to Sanjay Kapoor’s antics — at one point, he flashes the rings on his fingers and says “ek haath mein sapphire, doosre mein Neelam”.

The episode, which has meta moments aplenty, makes a case for women choosing their own fairytale, even if it means going against the norm. In the fourth episode, the Made in Heaven gang goes international — they plan a Bollywood wedding which is being held at the French Riviera, the same town which hosts the Cannes film festival each year.

With guest appearances by Pulkit Samrat, Anurag Kashyap, Vikrant Massey, Shrishti Behl and Elnaaz Norouzi, the episode has a star cameo every ten minutes. Norouzi plays Leila Shirazi, an Iranian actress who is marrying Sarfaraz (Pulkit Samrat). The two are planning to star opposite each other in a film, except it is revealed later that Sarfaraz wants to replace Leila with Kimi, a younger actress to increase his shelf life as a hero.

Through a seemingly fun Bollywood wedding episode, creators Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti comment on the age gap between male and female leads in Bollywood films. In another vulnerable moment, we see Leila open up about her struggles in Bollywood — when she came to Mumbai, she couldn’t speak a word in Hindi (a possible reference to Nora Fatehi and Jacqueline Fernandez). Even after making her way to the top, Leila is still at the mercy of the male actors.

Commentary on casteism and polygamy

The social commentary in the second season of Made in Heaven cuts through the scenes and doesn’t once come across as preachy or overly moralistic. In the fifth episode, we see Radhika Apte play Pallavi Menke, a Dalit who is an Ivy League graduate and an Amnesty award winner.

While Pallavi is keen on court marriage with her fiancé, her in-laws insist that she go for a traditional wedding with pheras. Pallavi demands that there’d be a Dalit wedding too, which unfortunately doesn’t sit right with her in-laws. Things take a turn for the worse when the groom’s family erase Pallavi’s caste from the wedding cards. “If it wasn’t for what I achieved, would your parents approve of this marriage?” Pallavi asks her fiancé at one point in the episode.

Director Neeraj Ghaywan, who helmed the episode, also portrays Pallavi’s complicated family dynamics. Pallavi’s brother isn’t happy that she outed her family as Dalit in her research work because that put him at the risk of discrimination by his peers. Eventually, Pallavi’s in-laws give in to her request — she gets married to her fiancé in a traditional Buddhist ceremony, complete with portraits of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha.

For a mainstream OTT show to address casteism in marriage and treating the subject matter with the seriousness and respect it deserves, is indeed a welcome change. In the same episode, we see a cross-cultural wedding between Rohit Ahuja (Mukul Chaddha), a Punjabi and Vidya Iyer, a South Indian. Vidya is divorced and has a son, Ved Menon, from her previous marriage. In a telling scene, Ved tells Karan “I hate my mother”. As a child, Ved shows signs of depression and doesn’t approve of his mother marrying a new man.

A nod to self-love and sologamy

Karan sees a reflection of himself in Ved and urges Vidya to take her son to a therapist. The episode shows how psychological needs of children of divorce are often ignored, an issue rarely addressed in mainstream discourse. In the next episode, we see Dia Mirza play Shehnaaz, the wife of a Muslim patriarch Wasim, who has brought home a second wife, despite having two children — Waris and Rizwan — from his first marriage.

Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, the episode shows just how painful polygamy can be for the woman, who is replaced in a family unit. She instantly loses her rights and the custody of her kids, with little recourse available. After a failed suicide attempt, Shehnaaz decides to fight in court to challenge the status of polygamy in Muslim households. The same episode also features a queer couple Aditi (played by Shibani Dandekar) and Radhika who have a commitment ceremony to exchange their vows.

In the final episode, we see Juliet, who is pregnant with a child, marry herself. As her father walks her down the aisle, with the groom gone, Juliet vows to “love and cherish herself". As the priest leaves, Julie takes over and continues with her vows: “I promise to stay with myself in sickness and health, learn from my failures. I promise to be kinder to myself for as long as I live.” In a true-blue celebration of sologamy, Juliet continues to love and take care of herself.

The fruition of queer love

The second season introduces Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju as a permanent cast member. Haldar plays Meher, a trans woman who joins the Made In Heaven team. Through Meher, Akhtar and Kagti show just how difficult it is for transfolk to find love and companionship even in metro cities. At one point in the show, Meher gets assaulted on a date. She goes through several challenges until she finds Danish, a man who not only accepts her but celebrates her queerness.

Things go meta when Kabir (Shashank Arora) gets an offer from Amazon to sell his documentary to the streaming platform. Kabir denies an offer to go to the New York University (NYU) for his Masters and begins dating Jazz, who is still in a relationship with Nadeem, the car mechanic. Jazz’s brother Gurpreet is still under the influence of drugs and it is only much later that Jazz realizes the importance of rehabilitation for drug addicts. Rarely have films or OTT shows, even the likes of Udta Punjab and Kohrra, stressed on the importance of de-addiction centers with support groups, quite like Made in Heaven has.

Zoya and Reema also address just how difficult it is to raise young boys through Bulbul’s son Dhruv, who records a girl having sex with her boyfriend in school. Bulbul, much to her son’s dismay, sides with the girl, even if it means implicating her own son in the case. It is only with empathy and love that Bulbul is able to change Dhruv’s heart and convince him to reveal the truth about Shruti’s molestation to the police. Few shows have acknowledged let alone portrayed just how difficult it is to raise angsty, rebellious teenage boys as well as Made in Heaven has.

Planning weddings and fighting demons

Tara and Karan, the two central characters in the saga, have their own demons to battle this season. Tara, after being separated from Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh) and losing Faiza (Kalki Koechlin) as a friend, falls in love with Raghav (Ishwak Singh) whose hatred for Russian salad catches her eye. Tara is feisty, fierce and ruthless. Towards the end, she manages to take away the Khanna household from Adil, much to Raghav’s dismay. “You don’t have to dress up for my friends”, Raghav tells Tara in a scene from the show. “I dress up. Your friends are incidental,” she says.

Meanwhile, Karan is distraught over his mother being diagnosed with cancer. She is on her deathbed, but isn’t willing to accept that her son is gay. On the contrary, she uses her deteriorating health to emotionally blackmail Karan into marrying a girl, a trope that plays out in Desi families on a regular basis. Karan, in order to shield himself from the sorrow, goes on one cocaine-induced bender after another — that is until he reunites with Nawab (Vikrant Massey), whose refusal to plant a peck on Karan’s cheek puts him on the right track.

Karan eventually loses his mother and is overwhelmed with guilt of not having fulfilled her wishes. “Your mom was a bitch,” Nawab tells Karan as he sobs. Why should Karan feel guilty for his mother’s failure to accept his son? Is it correct for parents to use their ill-health to emotionally manipulate their kids? After all, we have seen this happen in our homes. Viewers are left grappling with this thought long after watching the show.

In its pursuit to entertain, inform and charm the viewers, Made in Heaven succeeds in doing all three in equal measure. It is insane how much of the backstory and nuance showrunners were able to pack in seven odd hours. In a show where no detail is accidental and every character has a purpose, the second season of Made in Heaven more than makes up for its four-year-long wait time. As they say, marriages are made in heaven, and so is thunder and lightning. The show has all of them which is precisely what makes it worth a watch.

Made in Heaven season 2 is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

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