Disappointment is not such a personal problem. Made in Heaven is a show directed by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti which shows the personal problems of disappointment, ambition and identity-crisis as individual manifestations of the social problems of urban India. The show traces the rich world of upper class weddings which is just a superficially rosy setting for all the varied tragedies to take place. As a sociology student, after watching the show I felt that the show had shown all possible personal and social problems, vices and eccentricities that create a varied spectrum of human emotions. The quest for happiness is the underlying motive for each character’s journey which he/she navigates through to find; in the process they make decisions that would surprise some of us.
But people do not always know what will make them happy. Is it money? Is it self-respect? Is it societal sanction and approval? Is it a drug dosage? Or is it an affair? Different characters hold different things important. They judge each other. They help each other. They constitute a social universe of people just trying to fulfill their needs in the game of life by making one and then another decision to rewrite their biographies. Some are lucky to find a self that feels most authentic in the process while others lose themselves in the process of rewriting their biographies. Tara’s story is one of the most impactful in the whole show. Her character has bits that all women would be able to identify with at some level.
It reemphasizes the point in our minds that people’s actions never can be judged in isolation from the circumstantial context. The ideological position or the decision a person takes is specific to the temporal and situational context and the impulses and the “needs” that were most aching to get fulfilled. Shobhita Dhulipala has played Tara par excellence in my opinion. The sequencing of the storytelling with flashbacks at appropriate timings makes the viewers realize that these characters are human just like us. If the scene of Tara leaking her own sex-tape in the hope to marry ‘up’ had been shown in the first episode rather than the last, viewers might have characterized her as an “opportunistic immoral gold-digger” bearing no resemblance to the viewer’s own personality.
The holistic picture of Tara painted allows us to imagine a Tara within ourselves who might have done the same if poverty, aspiration and dreams had come face-to-face with the promise of being Adil Khanna’s (Jim Sard’s) wife. Similarly, Faiza’s character (played by Kalki Koechlin), although completely different from Tara in her privileged background, is a character we are able to empathize with and not completely hate for having an affair with Tara’s husband. Societal norms relating to infidelity are so black and white. But the consequences suffered for transgression differ with the status and power of a person. What are the indices of this power that make a person untouchable by the hands of tragedy? Is it gender, money, societal prestige and muscle power?
The royal father-in-law can get away with raping a servant girl at his son’s wedding. An NRI husband can get away with mistreating his wife. Faiza’s own ex-husband still enjoys the favor of Faiza’s parents who keep telling her to go back to him despite knowing about the physical abuse he inflicted on their daughter. Adil’s parents accept his infidelities by telling themselves “that’s how men are”. How are the same transgressions punishable differently depending upon the profile of the sinner? Why are some people disposable upon committing one transgression and others indisposable even after committing several transgressions?
What are the secret ingredients that make society want to forgive and overlook vices in the powerful male charcters like Adil, father-in-law Mr. Ranawat, politician Brijesh Yadav, Jeet Gill, an NRI husband or Vishal Srivastav, an IAS officer? What makes these characters so confident and unperturbed of any consequences of their actions? Why are similar or much less severe transgressions by characters like Karan, Jaspreet or Tara and Faiza unforgivable? Why do these characters live in fear of taking one wrong step which will lead them to lose respect in the eyes of their own families? Why are their lives considered less valuable? The superficial answer to this question of differential prestige and allowance would be money.
Money is power. However, that does not hold true in the case of Faiza, neither is it the answer to Tara’s problems. Money cannot decriminalize Karan’s sexual choices as a gay; it cannot undo his high school guilt nor prevent his landlord from getting him arrested. Money cannot give Sukhmani the sexual satisfaction she needs. Money cannot erase the trauma of a harassed woman. Money is not even a factor taken into account in the pursuit of “happiness” when couples plan their weddings, taking loans to create the semblance of a perfect moment. Amid stigma towards homosexuality, disdain towards marrying “up”, judgment towards a woman sleeping with someone else’s husband and inner-circle hegemony of English speakers, ‘Made in Heaven’ shows the desire for money, love and to live a respectable life without being answerable to anyone.
The “courage” shown by Priyanka for walking out of her marriage when her groom asked for dowry or by Nootan for marrying a Christian against her family’s wishes is also a privilege that their empowered upbringing gives them. Conversely, characters like Pooja, the mehendi girl or Sukhmani cannot be labelled “cowards” because the options life gives them is not similar to the indices of courage shown by a girl who has full familial support for her choices. Familial support and validation of oneself can change a lot as we see in Karan’s case. My take away from the web series was that it has humanized all the traits and vices we judge in others. I could see myself in each of these characters.
Picture Credits : scroll.in