“Weddings are a national obsession, in case you haven’t noticed,” says Reema Kagti, one of the five filmmakers who are the driving force behind Amazon Prime’s new web series, Made In Heaven. In a unique collaboration of some of the most brilliant minds in Hindi cinema today, the series has brought together Reema, Zoya Akhtar, Alankrita Shrivastava, Nitya Mehra and Prashant Nair to tell a story about two wedding planners trying to find their footing in the expansive ‘shaadi’ business.
The filmmakers are very clear about their choice of subject and the potential it has in serving as fodder for a critique on society. Ahead of the show’s premiere on March 8, Zoya, Reema, Nitya and Alankrita talk about taking up this oft-used setting as a playground for intriguing characters.
Nitya, whose last release was the Katrina Kaif-Sidharth Malhotra starrer Baar Baar Dekho, says, “Our society is obsessed with marriage as an institution, especially women. Doesn’t matter what social strata you come from, it’s probably ingrained in you from the time you were born – get yourself educated, achieve what you want, but eventually, one must settle down.”
“And I’ve always wondered why it’s called settle down. Why not settle up?” Nitya questions, as her colleagues nod in agreement.
Alankrita adds, “Wedding is a time when emotions run very high, so it’s a great time to look at characters, people, how they are feeling, the dynamics between them and the conflicts. For us, it’s been very interesting to use that setting to explore characters.”
Reema, who started off this ‘weddings are a national obsession’ train of thought, concludes, “Also, weddings reflect Indian society, so it was a great way to do a critique of the society through this show.”
With that, we move on to the most obvious setting for content on weddings – Delhi. Reema again quips, “Delhi is the wedding capital of India”, as Zoya, her collaborator on projects like Dil Dhadakne Do and Gully Boy, chimes in, “Delhi is also a beautiful place to shoot. It’s differently cinematic (than Mumbai, we assume). For the kind of story we wanted to tell, we needed spaces like that. Almost the whole show was shot in Delhi.”
Band Baaja Baraat, the only other prominent work in cinema that dealt with wedding planning, was also set in Delhi. But there is little similarity between this show and that film, other than the fact that both are centered on the lives of two wedding planners.
The show doesn’t stop at just following the lives of these two planners, played by Sobhita Dhulipala and Arjun Mathur. There is a whole gamut of characters from a wide spectrum of the society, exploring myriad emotions. Themes like homosexuality, infidelity, ambition, prejudice, patriarchy, privilege, financial independence, identity – all find space in this world of apparent glam and shine.
There is no black and white in this world, the makers present each character with empathy, something they say they ought to. Alankrita, who took up the issue of women’s liberation in Lipstick Under My Burkha, says, “As writers and filmmakers, we look at everyone with a lot of empathy. So what someone else might find bizarre, we find it fascinating. We are quite empathetic because we are so interested in observing human beings and their life, we don’t want to stereotype or put them into a box, we always want to look at them as layered, complex, well-rounded characters.”
Reema adds, “Even if the character is negative, you have to look at her with empathy to make him/her look and feel real. Otherwise it becomes very black and white.”
The show has been inspired by the real life experiences of these filmmakers, although they weren’t keen on revealing identities. Zoya exclaims, “We can’t talk about our sources, they will stop inviting us!”
The conversation veers towards their favourite wedding films, and names like Monsoon Wedding, Rachel Getting Married, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Wedding Crashers and Bridesmaids pop up. Reema names Confetti and Zoya immediately emphasizes, “Confetti was amazing!”
And you can already see the behind-the-scenes camaraderie between the four women, which probably reflected onscreen as well. Nitya insists that this was a fun collaboration because of the commonality in their aesthetics and politics.
“We all probably have the same sensibilities and aesthetic. We were completely on board with the idea, the story that we wanted to tell, the characters that we wanted to delve into. Working with people who come from the same world in terms of sensibility and politics, etc, makes it easier,” she said.