Posted By: Ruth Chawngthu
Art By: Bhavya
Made in Heaven is one of the current “it” series making its rounds all over social media and in our lives, often being suggested by friends and acquaintances – “It’s so intersectional yaar you have to watch it”, “life changing experience” etc etc. First, let’s give credit where it’s due – the critical acclaim that Tara and Karan’s deep and mutually empathetic friendship gets does deserve all the appreciation. The character of Karan is written beautifully where the usual cliche of using the ‘tragedy of queerness’ as a story arch is not followed.
However, the fact that it is still a taboo topic isn’t ignored either as is depicted in one of the scenes in which Karan’s landlord secretly films his private moment and gets him arrested under Section 377. Karan spends two nights in Jail which makes the viewer understand that one’s social capital may not necessarily be always helpful in times of sexual persecution. Even though the actor who plays adult Karan isn’t a gay man in real life, they actually made an attempt to cast a queer person to play his adolescent self and that kind of representation is rare to see in Indian media. Moreover, the fact that this show portrays the lives of Delhiites rather than the usual Mumbaikars in their apolitical bubble makes it a very interesting watch indeed.
In addition to the queer episodes, an interesting episode is one where a girl marries a tree in order to marry someone who is upper caste. This shows the stark reality of casteism that exists in today’s India but then again it comes to the question of whose gaze is it for? The girl is shown as willingly marrying the tree. But is it really her own will? She was adopted and her fiance’s family snoops and finds her records (creepy much?) and tells her she’ll bring bad luck if she doesn’t marry the tree?? A lot of people will ask “So what Ruth? She ultimately made the choice herself even though her to-be-husband begged her not to” Well, you’ve probably never experienced the pressure to conform in a Desi household then. She was conditioned to think that she was bad luck, polluted, and could only be ‘purified’ if she married the tree. This story is one that is far too common in not only rural but even in the NRI and urban households and it is told from a Savarna gaze.
The show while it tries to be as ‘intersectional’ as it can, fails at delivering what it can actually deliver with the good writers, resources, and actors that it has. It would be unfair to just group it with other shallow attempts at making impactful queer series or even movies. It covers diverse range of themes that others have not even dared to traverse – casteism, LGBT issues, sexual assault, sexism, patriarchy, among many others. The writing is not lazy, the acting is good. Some elements are out of place however, the show is ungrounded and isn’t very relatable. We’re led to believe that Karan and Tara are living an upper-middle class life when they would be one of the creamiest of the creamy layers of the upper class/caste IRL.
Made in Heaven is out of touch and it leaves me unfulfilled with the sense that perhaps it could’ve been more self-aware or self-critical. Perhaps, show an episode that doesn’t feature an NRI family? Till then I have to admit, this is actually one of the very few LGBT stories on screen that did not make me cringe or gag as much.
Nazariya’s Rating: 7.5/10
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