Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘a match made in heaven’? Made in Heaven, Amazon Prime’s new show explores the various types of couples in India that get married, and the challenges they face. It addresses social issues such as gay marriage, inter-religious marriage, royal marriage, political alliances, and generational differences in practices.
The plot follows a Delhi based wedding planning company called Made in Heaven run by Tara Khanna and Karan Arora. Tara is a woman from a low socio-economic background that married into a rich family, and Karan is an openly gay single man. It is produced by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti (also the producers of Gully Boy). If you haven’t watched the show yet, this may contain some spoilers, but if you want some insight before you start watching, carry on!
The entire show tackles and challenges every social perception Indians have of different groups of people, and exposes the ironies as well as the two-faced nature of public perception. Every wedding shown is one filled with the glamour and extravagance that Indian weddings are world renowned for. From the outfits to the food, to the set up and ceremonies, Indian weddings put up a show like non other to celebrate a union of two families. However, behind this glamour lies secrets and problems that form the bedrock for instability.
Some of the biggest issues they tackled were Section 377 which criminalised gay sex, socioeconomic differences, sexual assault, and gender roles and power.
In one episode, the Made in Heaven agency organises the wedding for the daughter of the leader of a political party that is the competitor for the ruling party in the show. They hire this agency for the wedding specially because they knew that Karan was joining a public movement to abolish Section 377 and made their employment a political stance against the ruling party. On top of the backhanded sexist remarks made to Tara and the female members of the agency and family, as well as the total disregard of their daughters wishes, this decisions shows the facade not only politicians have to put on, but the forceful unions made between families. This is often confused with arranged marriages. Forced marriages are when only one, or neither party has a say on the union, whereas in arranged marriages, there is still consent from both members.
The show’s critique of Section 377 and the portrayal of the protests was designed to show a sense of belonging rather than promoting difference. Instead of highlighting how different they are from the ‘normal’, they showed how homosexuality and fluidity has been a part of hinduism, and Indian culture for centuries. It showed how eunuchs are considered holy and provide blessings to newborn children and newlywed couples, but also how badly they are treated as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The exposure of the ironies demonstrates that ultimately, they are just people that want to live a life like everyone else where they don’t have to hide who they are or who they love in fear of imprisonment. In 2018, this section of the Penal Code was removed in an unanimous verdict as a landmark decision.
Additionally, marriages among older people, and people from different socioeconomic backgrounds are often looked down upon. They depict a marriage between two older people that have full grown children with their own children, and their new found love. The children are highly disapproving, concerned with public perception. However, from the words of the couple itself, it shows that because they have raised their children successfully, and have grandchildren, they have started to realise parts of their life that they left incomplete, and have found it in each other. It provides a glimpse of not just what widespread gossip says about people, but from the people itself, shattering social perceptions.
This picture above is from the episode of the royal wedding, where the bride, a pilot, marries into the royal family. The royal family, despite having royalty abolished a long time ago, still held a lot of respect and obedience. The father of the groom is caught molesting a wedding worker. The most pivotal scene of this episode is an exchange between Tara and Karan about what the girl should do. When offered a lot of money to keep quiet and not cause scandal, Karan is outraged at the decision, saying that her decision to keep quiet would most likely lead to more cases of assault because the father would believe money is all it takes. When he demands an answer from Tara about why she isn’t as outraged, especially because she is a woman, she says that it is because she is a woman that she will not judge that decision. This exchange exposed the sad culture of victim shaming and the devastating impact of being a victim has. It shows that even if she did go after him, she would be going against the royal family, and if she won or lost, she would be labelled a victim and her ‘purity’ would be lost, and would likely cost her a marriage in the future.
This show takes on multiple perspectives on specific issues to explore various arguments used in sociopolitical debates, while showing what actually happens behind the scenes amongst the glamour. Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti have struck again with a phenomenal piece of work. It is no wonder that the show has received widespread approval and high ratings. I highly recommend you to watch this show, and if you are not Indian, see if you can find parallels to your own country or culture. Comment below your thoughts!