Made in Heaven — of entrepreneurship feminism and everything in between….
Disclaimer: I’ve never been an entrepreneur, never lived in Delhi, never been part of any high society (let alone Delhi high society). In addition, I’ve never called myself a feminist and have never been a student of sociology. Yet, I ramble on.
Also spoiler alert: Read if you have watched the whole series. If you plan to watch it later on or are mid way, read after you’ve finished.!
I don’t watch too many TV shows . But when I read the reviews of Made in Heaven I thought I’d give it a watch. It got rave reviews from my friends who share similar interests. Sarika and Usha said that they loved it. Sonali chimed in with “I am watching it too”. But after the first 2 episodes I remarked “ oh this is just a slicker version of the good old saas-bahu serials.”Rekha prodded me to watch a few more with “it gets better as you go along.”Pooja couldn’t get over the explicit content, yet, she watched it and Anjali finally said “ this is only entertainment… its ok … “So, I continued.
The story chronicles the lives of 2 entrepreneurs- Tara and Karan and their dream-Made in Heaven- a company whose core business is Wedding Planning for high society Delhi. Set in glitzy Delhi, Made in Heaven, makes a commentary on the changing nature of relationships, weaving in themes of over-the-top weddings.
I don’t know if it is age catching up or just change in the lens with which I view things, I made a few observations which I will classify under entrepreneurship, feminism and other societal trends.
- Businesses need to have “soul” : In most of the episodes, the Made in Heaven team moves beyond the business of logistics of a wedding to actually dealing with human problems and emotions. In the episode of the older couple who decide to get married, Karan tells Tara something to the effect -“we are in the business of sets, vendors and music.. let’s stick to that and not get into these problems”. The problem was that the lady’s children were vehement in their refusal to attend their mother’s wedding while she so wanted them there. And so, they work to getting the kids into it. It is when they solved that problem did the customers really feel delight. This is not to suggest that businesses should move away from their core competence.In the episode when they’re pitching to a potential customer, they stress on what a wedding means to them and it goes beyond logistics. Of course, they won the deal, but for different reasons. The point here being- defining the business in terms of the human problem we are trying to solve will truly help in differentiating our offering to the market.
- Integrity is non-negotiable: Jass swipes the company credit card for some fancy clothes when she is out on work. When Karan finds out, he is convinced that she needs to go because he needs trust- worthy people around him. Intolerance to dishonesty needs to be demonstrated by leaders and Karan did that, although Jassi was showing a lot of promise. An employee could be a rising star, but there is no room for dishonesty. Of course, Jass makes a comeback later on! Put that to creative liberties or the nature of Karan who is willing to listen.
- Walking the talk: Tara buys diamonds for her friend’s daughter’s birthday (on personal expense tho) and when Jassi, mentions this, in passing to Shibani, the Production head who has been making noises of needing more money it raises her antennae. She has also been questioning the need for a “fancy-ass” office when they can’t pay higher salaries. How you spend your money in the initial years will determine a lot of things. Jauhari, the new investor, too questions the need for a fancy office when meetings can be done in hotel lobbies or cafes. Lesson to entrepreneurs : If you display extravagance especially in the organisation context, while asking your team to exercise austerity it will not be seen well. Substitute that fancy office with any other frill your company extends and it’s the same argument ( parties, outings etc) You may have compelling business reasons for the extravagance (like Karan did) but you need to be prepared to answer tough questions.
- Managing talent: If you have good talent, you have to nurture it through monetary and non monetary ways. Shibani is the head of production and has been with the company from the start. However, she does not see growth in monetary terms or in job profile. At one point she says “ I don’t want to be doing this production s***” and finally quits the company. Karan has been offering bandaid remedies like an advance for her daughter’s school trip etc, but in the end, if a person is good at her work she will look for long term solution in terms of growth and rewards. As an entrepreneur, you have to show the future and work towards it.
- Need for systems: Karan and Tara are drinking from a hip flask on the stairs of the hospital where Tara’s husband is recovering from an accident.(happens only in a high society Delhi hospital, I guess). Karan says he needs to take an advance from the business to meet his debt repayment schedule. Tara refuses, saying “we can’t go on like this, moving from one account to the other”. Often entrepreneurs manage their finances in ways where lines between the personal and professional are blurred. This does not augur well for the business and individuals. Although it was difficult for Tara to say no, she did. Entrepreneurs need to draw that line in the sand.
There were other nuggets but too small to mention here.
The first 2 episodes were a disappointment. The bride walks out of her sangeet ceremony but agrees to get married not when her man stood up for her but only when she is talked into it by Tara. Tara gives her the perspective about money and hence it becomes a convenient choice.
But the stories of the older woman making her choice and the young bride walking out of the mantap because her oh- so-woke husband who talks organic and simplicity, was party to the dowry discussion brought hope. Women’s lib does not come in one swipe through overnight revolutions. It is the everyday nudges and actions we take towards the rejection of patriarchy that will actually make this world a more equal place.
Women in this series are shown smoking, drinking and swearing . But then if men can enjoy it,so can the women. Yes, as a non-millennials who have had relatively conservative upbringing, the explicit content of casual sex and choice of language makes people like me and my friend Pooja squirm in our seats . But at one level it was good to see the honesty and movement away from the age old symbolisms of flowers touching as used to be shown in earlier movies. As a society, there has been change in the ways people demonstrate love and we just have to move with it. However, these things cannot be the totem pole of feminism. We cannot equate just smoking/ drinking to being a liberated woman. A liberated woman is one who is aware of and exercises her choice every step of the way.Agency should be the defining feature of modern day feminism.
There is sisterhood and an innate humanity shown too — Tara counsels the women at different phases keeping in mind her business interests most of the time. However, she breaks away to give the bride the info about the dowry demands knowing well that a wedding called off may mean loss in business.
Similarly, Karan loses a contract by giving out information that he knows about a friend’s fiancé.
Education does not guarantee a mind free from patriarchy or superstition. This was demonstrated by the banker lady who marries the tree ( I’m guessing that the most woke among us have been party to varying degrees of this- mea culpa here;-) or the pilot who willingly covered up the molestation scandal of her father-in-law while spouting homilies to women’s empowerment all the time.
It was heartening to see men being champions of women’s rights. The doctor from London who disapproved of his fiancé marrying a tree before she marries him was a good touch. Through the series Karan has been a staunch defender of women and shows empathy- whether it was his determination to help the mehendi girl to fight the rich or his counseling to brides on how they should approach their problems. Even a character as dark as Adil says to Faiza “ you should not be answerable to anyone but yourself” in the context of her father exerting his control over her. That was refreshing. May their tribe increase!
Societal trends :
I’m yet to see a couple greet each other in front of their parents with a peck on the cheek. But then, I’ve never been part of high society !
The topic of homosexuality and the struggles of the LGBTQ community in India has been handled in a very sensitive way. The reactions of families and friends were realistic. It was refreshing to see the shift away from ridicule they are normally subjected to . Do you think it has nudged society towards being more open and accepting of everyone in society? Well, a start maybe ??
The show also touches upon the themes of indebtedness and the millennial entitled kids, politics and marriages of convenience, in a matter-of-fact fashion.
The story of Jass as well as Tara’s journey from her finishing school days throw light on the struggles and aspirations of the middle class .The grit they show in the face of ridicule they are subjected to makes you root for them.
The friendship between Karan and Tara is also unique given the disparate circumstances they are in – each one with their separate set of problems, yet, reaching out to each other in difficult times .The fact that a man and a woman have been shown as friends is perhaps novel to Indian shows ..( becoz ladka aur ladki kabhi dost…). Was it easier to portray because of differences in their sexual orientation? I hope it was just not the only driving factor and also hope we begin to see men and women as great friends too!
My favourite character of the show was Kabir ,the photographer, who in his own wry way, makes astute observations and gives the synopsis at the end of every episode. He impressed me with observations such as this -irrespective of status in society, the wedding day still remains the most important day in a woman’s life (I wonder why they don’t say that for men) .
At one point you are left with the feeling of “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. If art mimics life, can we assume that the wheels of change have been set in motion. I’d like to believe it is truly so, atleast in some sections of society, but am acutely aware and acknowledge that change will be slow. We can only hope that all women are given the agency to choose what works for them without being judgemental. (like the girl who accepts the money offer to drop the molestation case) .
Here’s to moving towards a more empowered and equal society !
So, to all my friends who asked me to stay with the show- thank you. Do you have anything to add to this already lengthy post on any part of the show- entrepreneurship, feminism, society in general ? Do leave a comment…