Made in Heaven Season 2 review: Neeraj Ghaywan, Trinetra are the dark horses of a worthy but patchy follow-up
Made in Heaven season 2 review: Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti give leads and new characters well-rounded arcs, but the weddings feel more curated than organic.
The events of Made in Heaven Season 2 kick off soon after the explosive Season 1 finale. The progression seems natural: Karan (Arjun Mathur) and Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) are now flatmates, Jauhari (Vijay Raaz) has acquired a majority stake in the wedding planning company after Adil's (Jim Sarbh) separation from Tara, and Faiza (Kalki Koechlin) is drawing closer to Adil. But what doesn't feel organic is the episodic wedding format. (Also read: Made in Heaven season 1 review)
Sure, no wedding is similar to another in terms of aesthetic, sights and sounds. Or for that matter, even the issues that plague the impending marriages. But to raise a new conflict in every episode, and rush to reach its resolution within the time frame of an hour, starts to feel more imposed than free-flowing. The bride's skin colour, domestic abuse, polygamy and parental opposition to coming out - these rampant issues are worth underlining, but not to the extent of a character pulling out statistics about fairness creams or a Muslim wife resolving to fight a legal battle against polygamy or a wife lecturing her husband on how he can't take decisions for his adult wife and daughter. These are common problems but their depiction tends to lack nuance when one tries to force-fit every episode into the same box.
The only exception to this Akshay Kumar/Ayushmann Khurrana-style cherry-picking of issues is a Neeraj Ghaywan episode, where Radhika Apte's Dalit bride insists on having a Buddhist wedding in order to retaliate against her in-laws demanding the traditional pheras ceremony along with a court marriage. Ghaywan uses his nuanced gaze to put forth arguments in a way that they amplify the character's voice, and not the writer or director's. He makes her voice more meaningful by opening a discourse around her politics, through not only the archaic notion of Brahmanical establishment, but also another informed Dalit counter-voice. At one point, that voice tells Radhika's character, "Sab jagah jhanda lehrana band karo" (Stop waving a flag of cause everywhere), as if it's a cue to the show's writers.
All the weddings through the show are exquisitely designed, delightfully treated and beautifully shot, but the Buddhist wedding speaks more to the soul than the eyes. It feels like an earned culmination to a woman's struggle for identity, as opposed to the tokenistic device of the women entering on black steeds in a lesbian wedding. You don't expect the likes of Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Alanrkita Shrivastava to endorse male saviour syndrome, but in Season 2, it feels like the writers are projecting their own selves as saviours behind the pen.
The show lands more when the conflict revolves around the simpler cracks in love. For instance, Neeraj's episode with real-life couple Neelam Kothari and Samir Soni playing lovers, married to different people, and planning their kids' wedding with each other is just a hilarious premise to begin with. They hook up in hidden corners of the royal wedding venue, like young mates hopelessly in love. They debate eloping from their children's wedding, and to me, that's the most adorable love story.
Or when in the series finale, directed by Zoya and Reema, it's the boyfriend willing to sacrifice his career in order to marry and look after his pregnant girlfriend. The subversion of gender dynamics is neatly constructed and has a larger purpose. Even in the gorgeous episode set in France, directed by Zoya and Reema, two Bollywood actors marrying each other for optics seems more lived-in. The actors may be marrying for mileage, their dreamy love story helps in keeping many others alive in hope.
Some weddings tend to resonate more because they mirror a regular character's own life at that point. An abuse victim feels deep empathy for a gullible bride (Mrunal Thakur) marrying her violent boyfriend; a girl decides to be Tara-like and rejects a boy because he's not rich enough, only to yearn for him years later; Tara getting drawn towards a wife who learns of her husband's adultery 23 years into their marriage; Tara telling the bride to take ownership of her husband's finances. Even Karan consoling a woman whose husband is marrying another woman, and Tara pushing the parents of a lesbian bride to attend her wedding, are attempts by Karan and Tara to reconcile with each other. Their friendship continues to strike a chord in the most economical way.
Arjun Mathur is terrific in presenting Karan in all his messiness and with all his frailties. Watch out for him choking up when he struggles to explain the turmoil within, or jolting as if a shockwave has gone through him when he cremates his mom, or most of all, when he breaks down out of guilt for hating his dead mom. Vikrant Massey pops up again as Nawab, but don't expect a torrid lovemaking scene like in the last season. His turn here is more composed and restrained, and rightfully so. Sobhita Dhulipala's character is equally complex, but deceptively polished on the surface. Her character arc then becomes a tighter rope walk because she has to keep playing morally contentious moves, without getting any spotlight to explain them or redeem herself. She does doing both though, through her telling eyes, confident smile and fluid body language and demeanour.
Jim and Kalki's relationship also has quite an organic trajectory in Season 2, and the two continue to share that crackling chemistry. On the other hand, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi's Kabir-Jazz dynamic plays out like a fun, competitive game of snake-and-ladders. Thankfully, we get to know more about Kabir, beyond Shashank's deliberately opaque reactions and his carefully crafted monologues. But it's really the new characters, except Ishwak Singh, who stand out. Both Mona Singh and Trinetra Haldar deserve spin-offs of their own. Mona is a powerhouse performer who can mine gold from a well-written character like Bulbul.
And Trinetra has such an assured presence in front of the camera as if she was born and raised in front of one. She's also the answer to all the sceptics wondering if casting trans women in those parts can yield any results except token representation. In this show, Trinetra is an actor first, a transwoman later. The writers also fill her world with so much love - she's referred to as "you look amazing" by a number of key characters, her parents dotingly call her 'meri beti,' and she's also said to be one of the highest-paid employees of Made in Heaven. Of course, there are those common instances of catcalling and shaming, but the focus is more on her struggle to find love than acceptance. At one point, she tells a dating app match when he shows curiosity for her journey, "I just want to go on a date, not give a TED talk."
One wishes if the writers had painted the entire show with the same light strokes that they created Trinetra's character Mehek with. Made in Heaven Season 2 is never consistently preachy, but it sure is patchy with its heavy-handedness. I would pay good money to see where Karan and Tara go from here, or where Bulbul and Mehek come from. But as far as the episodic issue-based wedding format is concerned, it wouldn't hurt if the makers slash and burn their format into a new life in Season 3.
Made in Heaven Season 2 is streaming on Prime Video India.