Made In Heaven: What one of India's top wedding planners thinks of the show's depiction of the business
The weddings that Made In Heaven's Tara and Karan plan are extravagant, and the behind-the-scenes drama enlightening — but how much of it is based in truth?
The new Reema Kagti-Zoya Akhtar Amazon prime Original — Made In Heaven — has proven to be quite the binge-watch, winning praise moreover for its tackling of hypocritical Indian social mores, depiction of homosexuality, and pitch-perfect casting, among other things.
But what about the Indian wedding planning business itself? Made In Heaven's ensemble cast comprises many well-etched characters from different walks of life, but at the story's core are two young, up-and-coming wedding planners — Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur) — who run the titular agency in Delhi.
Tara and Karan are different from two other wedding planners of our pop culture past, Band Baaja Baaraat's Bittoo and Shruti. Bittoo and Shruti were brash, and the Delhi they inhabited is a world removed from the one Made In Heaven caters to. If the nitty-gritty of wedding planning took a backseat to exploring Bittoo and Shruti's chemistry in Band Baaja..., then in Made In Heaven, the business is very much at the forefront. All of the highs and lows associated with planning a big, fat Indian wedding can and do crop up, and our protagonists must deal with them.
So Tara and Karan must not only get the decor, arrangements and catering right for their uber rich clients, they must also (on occasion) run background checks, communicate dowry demands, convince recalcitrant children to attend a parent's nuptials, smooth away the results of a night of infidelity, deal with a case of sexual harassment, save one bride while getting another "married" to a tree — all this while fighting off cut-throat competition from a much more established rival firm, and keeping their business in the green. (We're not even going to get into their personal lives.)
The weddings that Tara and Karan plan are extravagant, and the behind-the-scenes drama enlightening — but how much of it is based in truth?
What does planning the weddings of the rich and famous entail? Tina Tharwani and Saurabh Malhotra of Shaadi Squad are uniquely placed to answer that question.
Along with their partner Manoj Mittra, Tina and Saurabh helped put together one of the biggest celebrity weddings of 2017 — the Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma nuptials in Tuscany. Not only was the Kohli-Sharma wedding the last word in luxury (it was held at the Borgo Finocchieto retreat, where a week's stay costs just under Rs 1 crore) it was also conducted in utmost secrecy, with not a word of the event being leaked to the world at large until after the couple posted the first images of themselves as bride and groom on their social media handles. "The people responsible for making the most memorable occasion of our lives peaceful and beyond beautiful — our lovely wedding planners," Kohli captioned a picture of himself and Anushka with the Shaadi Squad team.
In 2018, Shaadi Squad also planned the Mumbai roka ceremony for Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas.
So what did Shaadi Squad's Tina and Saurabh think of Tara, Karan and Made In Heaven?
Their verdict: The aspects of the wedding industry covered by Made In Heaven “are pretty accurate — albeit hyperbolic”.
“The show has exaggerated elements of the wedding industry to portray them in a controversial, or ‘scandalous’ manner,” Tina says. “Dark elements like the hypocrisies, prejudices, voyeurism, and regressive mindsets of the affluent have resulted in this (sense of) constant, underlying dread throughout the series. But that degree of masala is a creative liberty taken by the show’s makers to reach a wider audience. Because of this aspect, we had to watch the show with many-a-pinch of salt! Nevertheless, the production value, sheer detailing, and the incredible performances of the entire cast made every minute of the series worthwhile.”
Other pluses for Tina: Made in Heaven's "vivid portrayal of the innate chaos as well as the emotional angle [sic]" of the wedding planning industry.
Tara and Karan get a ringside view of the best and worst of human behaviour as they go about planning the weddings of their clients’ dreams. Tina and Saurabh agree that wedding planners get an insightful glimpse into their clients’ psyches in the course of their work.
“As wedding planners, we are in constant communication with the couple and their families, and that level of proximity over large amounts of time does grant us a perspective of human behaviour. After all, managing people and their expectations comprises a huge part of our jobs, and when it comes to that, analysing and predicting their behaviour comes naturally to us. We see them at their enthusiastic best as well as in their most anxious and stressed-out phases, and we learn how to deal with each over the time. For us, the barometer to gauge whether the wedding was a success depends heavily on the vibe created throughout the process, in each ceremony and among each family member, relative, friend, and acquaintance,” says Saurabh.
Tina and Saurabh are quick to assert that Shaadi Squad hasn't had to deal with any untoward incidents a la Tara and Karan in Made In Heaven. “Small hiccoughs here and there are not uncommon, but there’s never been any glaringly awful situation ever!” Tina says.
Instead, over the course of their work, they've had a chance to be part of some truly heartwarming occasions. “The wedding planning business is emotional in its essence, and more often than not, there is this very endearing bond created between us and our clients,” Tina tells us. “Often it starts to seem as though we are planning our own family wedding! From dancing along with the baraat to being teary-eyed during the bidaai — every aspect of the wedding is a memorable experience for all parties involved.”
While the wonderfully festive atmosphere of an Indian wedding — along with its attendant rituals and family involvement — makes these events distinctive, it also throws up certain challenges for those in the business of planning them. Saurabh and Tina say that the Shaadi Squad team’s role often goes beyond that of being event managers to “people and expectation managers”. At the same time, as planners, they revel in the fact that the scale of Indian weddings and their informal, familial air make for such an unparalleled experience.
Indian weddings, Tina and Saurabh say, have come a long way in the time that they’ve been in the business — both in terms of scale as well as expression. “While the ‘big, fat Indian wedding’ megatrend isn’t going to cease, people are now gradually shifting towards smaller and more intimate affairs. The expression has become very personal in nature these days,” says Saurabh. Tina adds that couples and their families now desire “a distinctive wedding that reflects the bond shared by them, instead of opting for the same set of ceremonies and rituals that have been traditionally followed”. “People now prefer combining weddings with holidays, inviting only immediate family and close friends to an exotic destination, and holding a reception for all the other guests once they are back home," she says. "With such shifts, weddings in India are turning into an intimate, memorable experiences rather than larger-than-life ones.”
They're indeed, being made in heaven.
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