Writer and director Zoya Akhtar and her frequent creative partner Reema Kagti created the anthology drama series “Made in Heaven” back in 2019 to question, critique, and, yes, celebrate the effort that goes into an Indian wedding. Sobhita Dhulipala and Arjun Mathur lead a phenomenal ensemble cast as Tara Khanna and Karan Mehra, respectively, best friends and co-owners of Made in Heaven, wedding planners to the one percent in New Delhi. The core cast’s story arcs continue throughout the season, but each episode features a different couple engaging MIH’s services. Technically the planners are tasked only with decor, venue, and food; Karan and Tara are almost always made to do so much more. They dispense therapy; they advise angry brides to not walk away from classist in-laws. Occasionally, they help stop the proceedings altogether.
Aiding Tara and Karan in these dysfunctional odysseys are Jaspreet “Jazz” Kaur (Shivani Raghuvanshi), who longs to erase every trace of her working-class roots by working at an elite wedding planning agency, and Karan Basrai (Shashank Arora), MIH’s in-house videographer, whose cynical worldview is used as narration for the end of each episode. In Season One, we also met rich divorcee Faiza Naqvi (Kalki Koechlin), Tara’s best friend, who is honoring their friendship by sleeping with Adil Khanna (Jim Sarbh), Tara’s multimillionaire husband. By the end of Season One, Tara and Adil’s marriage was on the rocks, and so was MIH’s future. But Karan, whose homosexuality was an open secret, fought and won a public battle to be openly and proudly gay; his story arc coincided with the decriminalization of homosexuality in India.
The seven episodes that comprise Season Two are much darker and deeper than the first season’s offerings. On the docket are pervasive issues that plague India today, including colorism, caste discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and domestic violence. Tara and Karan have never batted a thousand, but this time, the limits of their abilities are on full, unflinching display. Though the planners and the groom encourage Sarina (Zayn Marie Khan), a dark-skinned bride, to love herself, she still slathers skin-lightening cream on her skin. I remember using similar products in high school; the shame I feel at the memory is worse than the burning sensation of the bleach on my face. That is the true power of this series: every battle feels personal and frighteningly reminiscent of my own experiences. In the second episode, which I hope will be prefaced by a trigger warning upon its premiere, an abusive groom (Siddhant Karnick) convinces his bride (Mrunal Thakur) during an eleventh-hour meltdown that he needs help and her love to be better. I wanted to scream at my computer as she circles the sacred fire, her parents weeping silently and helplessly, my own memories of an abusive relationship swirling in my vision, “He’s lying! He’s never going to change!”