Nothing gets us going, for better or for worse, as much as weddings and marriage unions. With the Netflix reality series Indian Matchmaking focusing on attempts by its characters to find their soulmates, already going viral, here are three other things to watch this week, if you haven’t already, that revolve around the concept of you know what...
Say I Do (Netflix, 2020)
While I’m all for matrimony (for those that actually want it) I’ve always felt elaborate weddings are a massive waste of precious time and money. They are essentially a massive theatre production — complete with elaborate sets, expensive costumes and a somewhat loose but predictable script — set up so that two people can sign what is essentially a partnership contract.
Needless to say, I was expecting to be wowed by the artistry on display, and yet repulsed by the wasteful extravagance of Netflix’s latest reality show series, Say I Do. But it turned out to be completely not what I was expecting.
I couldn’t watch a single episode without feeling like someone was chopping onions nearby. Say I Do isn’t just about weddings, it’s about making good people, who have gone through a lot in life, feel special, if even for a day. It’s where (usually) the husband surprises his wife (or fiancée) with a proposal, and a wedding over the weekend.
To help make it happen are three (m)angels. There is Jeremiah Brent who is an interior designer and who arranges for the location and designs the wedding. There is Gabriele Bertaccini, an Italian chef who prepares the food — the gateway to the soul. And finally, there is Thai Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American fashion designer who designs the wedding wear.
But not only are the couples healing and celebrating who they are through the series, their (m)angels are too. In the first episode, Gabriele opens up about living with HIV and Thai is very emotional throughout the series because the unions remind him of how his parents have yet to accept him and his partner.
There are little things the crew does to help the couples. Black is sown into wedding gowns for the couple to remember immediate family members lost recently, a therapist is hired to provide much-needed closure and vindication for a character that has suffered her entire life under a misdiagnosis, among other things.
This isn’t a show about putting up an elaborate theatre production for vanity. Rather, it’s about putting up that theatre production so some good people, who have been through a lot, can get a break and be kings and queens for a day.
With the tying of the knot as the central theme, Icon takes a close look at weddings in this week’s watchlist
Dum Laga Ke Haisha (Amazon Prime Video, 2015)
One of my biggest pet peeves about Amazon Prime Video in South Asia is that it’s very difficult to find a lot of new content on their platform. Most of their latest productions are simply not available for South Asian audiences. So, we usually have to contend with their extensive library of older productions.
That might work out for those that like to watch and re-watch old movies. Or watch those they missed seeing when they first came out. One such film for me is Dum Laga Ke Haisha.
More than the film, one was familiar with the main title song, Moh Moh Ke Dhaage. It’s a popular number, penned by lyricist Varun Grover, that often shows up in the background of a lot of Instagram updates of Pakistani celebrities, often playing in their cars. Not surprisingly so, the film, its cast and this song has won multiple awards across various awards platforms in India.
This is one of India’s most respected actors, Ayushmann Khurrana’s earlier works. It marked the debut of Bhumi Pednekar, who reportedly gained 30kgs for the role.
Set in Hardiwar in the ’90s, Dum Laga Ke Haisha is about a 24-something Prem Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) who has been forced into marriage with a visibly overweight, but educated and full-of-life Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar). They both come from the lower income group, but the difference being that Prem’s family is uneducated and they look at Sandhya more as a financial support for their family.
Prem is embarrassed of Sandhya, and doesn’t do a very good job of hiding it. Sandhya, on the other hand, is not one to be pushed around, and will not allow herself to be diminished without consequence. They decide to part ways, but a local wife-carrying contest is around the corner, and the prize money is a whopping 10,000 rupees. An amount Prem and his family could use — their cassette store is under threat of becoming obsolete due to the advent of CDs.
This film is a lot of things: family pressures, fighting the patriarchy, what marriage really looks like once the wedding is over and, most importantly, how beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. That there is more to a person than what meets the eye. This is a heartwarming film that can be watched with the whole family. Do watch with the subtitles as this dialect of Hindi is a little hard to follow.
Made In Heaven (Amazon Prime Video, 2019)
This is perhaps one of my all-time favourite series. I’ve probably seen it five times already and wouldn’t mind re-watching it a sixth time — but after an extended break. The production is very slick and modern and so are the characters and storylines.
Directed by Zoya Akhtar, Made in Heaven boasts a young star cast: Sobhita Dhulipala, Kalki Koechlin, Arjun Madhur, Jim Sarah and Shashank Arora among others.
Made In Heaven is about two Delhi-based wedding planners who run an upscale wedding management company called, what else but, Made In Heaven. Each episode focuses on a different wedding. Every wedding shows us a different facet of South Asian society, and the clash between the modern and the traditional. Made In Heaven shows us that South Asian society is as complex as it is diverse.
No wedding is straightforward though, Tara and Karan, the co-heads of the planning agency, often have to go above and beyond doing just what their job is to get the job in the first place and then keep it while prioritising the well-being of their clients as well as their staff. Each wedding reveals more about the staffers of Made In Heaven to us, and even to themselves. It holds up a mirror to them, and they are forced to reckon with themselves.
Tara is a woman who came from the wrong side of the tracks, and shrewdly made her way up in society through marriage. She’s been trying to fit in since, but is it even worth it? On the other hand, Karan has kept his sexual orientation secret from his parents and society at large, and it’s starting to eat away at him and also endanger his life.
Listen closely to the music as the series features a song by our very own Zoe Viccaji, Ho Jao Azaad, in one of the episodes. Ever since Made In Heaven first came out last year, I’ve been waiting for Season 2. But rumour has it that the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdowns may have delayed the production of Season 2 indefinitely, although Zoya Akhtar was seen carrying around the script way back in April this year. Let’s hope they find a way to film it. This show must go on.
Published in Dawn, ICON, July 31st, 2020