Made In Heaven Web Series Review: A moralising tale that remains a jejune watch

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The didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series.

The series has a superb premise. Two different wedding planners are presenting their ideas of organising the wedding to a rich, affluent family to try and please them with their creativity and sign the deal. While one of them tries to woo the family with taglines like “new age royalty”, the other company called ‘Made In Heaven’ uses love and relationship as part of their efforts to bag the deal. Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur), representing Made In Heaven, say that the wedding is a “once in a lifetime event”. They, further, add that wedding ceremony “should celebrate the couple” and “the theme should tell their story”. Tara and Karan do go on to impress the family and end up signing the contract. Amazon Prime Video’s Made in Heaven, a web series comprising 9 episodes, is about how Tara and Karan confront complicated situations while organising wedding ceremonies and at the same time how they deal with the problems in their own life.

It is great to see different sorts of weddings being planned and I liked how a progressive and regressive mindset was being highlighted. But the depiction of challenges associated with the weddings was stretched to an extent that they seemed preachy. For instance, there’s a guy who has no problem knowing that his fiancée is not a virgin. But the complication that arises due to his parents’ disapproval takes too long to establish a conclusion. A guilty conscience starts hurting a girl, in another instance, who has slept with another man when she is already about to get married. This, again, I felt, was protracted to a point that it seemed draggy.

It resorts to teaching us some of the important issues instead of making us realise them ourselves. Karan, who is a gay, emotionally declares that “this is who I am”. We, further, get to hear dialogues like “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” and “it’s natural”. (An aged man confesses his attraction towards men when he says that he has lived his whole life in pretence. This was much more impactful where you really feel bad for that guy without having to hear in-your-face dialogues). In another scene, a group of male workers initially turn down the order given by a woman. Here, the reaction of those workers itself was enough to understand why they didn’t obey her order. But, later, these workers explain that they are not going to take orders from a ‘woman’. This did serve the purpose of depicting the ugly mentality of those male chauvinist guys but when it resorted to explanation, thinking that it might go unnoticed, it took the sheen away. Take Netflix’s Soni, for example, which subtly exhibited the sufferings of women in a male-dominated society. Even Pariyerum Perumal, one of the greatest Tamil films ever made, portrayed the divide in the society in the name of caste but never really tried to educate us through moralising dialogues and the protagonist’s anguish and agony were enough to make us feel the sufferings.

Although the didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series, the performances of all the cast members were terrific. Even a cameo by Vijay Raaz was powerful.

There were little things that were non-didactic and yet were represented brilliantly. I wished the series remained so in the entirety. A father defends his son being gay in front of a throng of media persons. A mother’s disappointment is clearly visible when she excitedly asks “how’s food?” and all she gets in return is “just as it always is”. A girl looks at a syringe on the floor and slips it under the bed and the camera turns right to show her brother sleeping in his bed depicting that he is a drug addict.

Scenes involving sex were both lusty and realistic. Some of them even showed the ‘other’ side of the picture which is not usually represented in Indian movies and series (A man, while kissing Karan, asks him if he wants to marry him). And some even brought out the harsh realities (A minor girl gets raped by a rich, older man but she accepts the money from him to stay silent about it).

Tara’s character brings out the poignant feeling but her strained relationship with her husband (Jim Sarbh) has been stretched for far too long.

Nevertheless, Made in Heaven remained a wearying watch.

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Photograph Movie Review: Serenity at its peak

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The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

A long shot shows Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as always) walking on a footover bridge as the traffic on the roads below is crawling along. There is a placidity and quietude about him even as he is deluged with loud honks of the vehicles. This is the very first scene of the movie. Even though it is ephemeral, it is also a moment to be captured on camera. A photograph of this scene will bring back the memories of solitude and quietness amidst the noise of everyday hustle and bustle. Such is the beauty of a photograph that Rafi, who earns a living by taking instant photos of tourists outside the Gateway of India, uses to great effect. The Lunch Box fame Ritesh Batra has this knack of creating characters with whom the different shades of life come to the fore. Photograph is no different.

Rafi and Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) are like two different ends of a thread. Circumstances are such that the two ends meet each other in the form of a knot. But the knot is not tight enough and is in the position of getting disentangled anytime.

Rafi’s stubborn grandmother (It must be said that Farrukh Jaffer’s authentic performance lent great weight to this grandmother character) is trying to get him married. Around the same time, he meets Miloni with his usual selling point when he says that “saalon baad jab aap ye photo dekhengi madam, toh aapko aapke chehre pe yahi dhoop dikhai degi…” (You will be able to see this sunshine on your face when you will take a look at this photo after several years). The story begins when Miloni agrees to act as his girlfriend in front of Rafi’s grandmother and a feeling of love and affection starts growing between them.

It is the bond between Rafi and Miloni that remained the standout feature of this film for me. Rafi, while writing a letter to his grandmother, writes that Miloni is like the first rain in the fields. It is, also, lovely to see Miloni’s slight hints to her fondness for him during her interactions with Rafi’s grandmother. The charming interaction between them when they sit opposite to each other in a tea shop exchanging their childhood secret is so wonderful (While Rafi reveals why he always goes for a kulfi at the end of a month, Miloni narrates her love for a beverage named ‘Campa Cola’ that is not in business anymore). When Rafi reaches just in a knick of a time to take Miloni away from her teacher (Jim Sarbh), who was trying to force her to come with him for a cup of coffee, she, later, innocently expresses her relief of being in Rafi’s company again as she utters, “Tum theek ho?… Main bhi theek hoon” (Are you fine?… I’m also fine).

The life of Rafi and Miloni, however different they are, seems to have one thing in common – wedding. Rafi dodges a question like “What sort of girl do you want?” from a shopkeeper. Even the news of his grandmother’s decision to not to take her medicines until he agrees to marry reaches the likes of taxi drivers and the kulfi (a type of dessert) sellers who know him. Miloni, on the other hand, is a bright student, belongs to an affluent family and her parents are looking for a perfect match. She is living life by the rules laid down by her parents. All she has to do is study well and get married to a guy who they think to be her best match. She has no say in the choice of her own dress (In a shop, she nods in agreement to whatever dress her family chooses for her). She silently eats her food and responds with a feeble voice that all is well when enquired by her father. The best portrayal of suppression of her feelings comes to light when the camera focuses on her feet, which is hesitantly moving, and we hear the voices of her parents discussing her future.

I was moved by Miloni’s character and a lot of credit goes to Sanya Malhotra for lending innocence and gentleness to this character with aplomb. Miloni’s revelation that her photo, taken by Rafi, showed a much happier version of her and a more beautiful one too, is telling evidence of how, in reality, she has to be content within the constraints of her life. In another instance, when Miloni expresses that she wants to live in a village and work in the fields, we understand how eagerly she wants to be liberated of her confinements.

As the movie neared its end, Rafi tells Miloni, while sitting outside a movie theatre, that all films have a similar tale where a man and a lady love each other but get separated due to man’s poor financial condition and the pressure exerted on the lady from her family. Somehow, the ending of such tales seems to be the most likely outcome of this movie as well. Ritesh Batra, probably, understands how attached one can get to these lovely characters and there is no definitive end given to this story. The beautiful bond between them is ephemeral just like the scenes inside a photograph.