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By the time Made in Heaven premiered on Amazon Prime Video, four Hindi language web series had already debuted on the streaming giant. Created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, Made in Heaven was the fifth show to be made available on the OTT platform. By then, a vast majority of the audience who had watched the sports drama Inside Edge, R Madhavan’s Breathe and Pankaj Tripathi’s Mirzapur knew what to expect from desi makers, at least to some degree, on the digital medium. Some violence, a bit of thrill with an almost rustic vibe, peppered with a healthy dose of an underdog story of trying to win against the odds.
Helmed by four directors — Nitya Mehra, Alankrita Shrivastav, Zoya Akhtar and Prashant Nair — Made in Heaven presented itself almost like an urbane escape. Sure, here too a couple of young wedding planners were trying to break big time in the industry, but their struggles were off-set by a more modern setting, so that the show’s production value, its excellent sets and the glamour that the main characters were usually enveloped in, took precedence. And rightly so, because that was its world. Its people were sophisticated and relaxed on surface; their issues, however complex, were different from what we have largely seen on the medium till then. The show used its setting to juxtapose Tara’s (an excellent Sobhita Dhulipala) struggle and her complicated and very grey backstory, giving us an insight into the mature, woman of the world she has eventually become. Or Arjun Mathur’s Karan trying to pay his rent on time and keeping his sexual identity under the carpet at all times.
And then there were Jim Sarbh’s Adil Khanna and Kalki Koechlin‘s Faiza. Affluent people, born with a silver spoon, who were trying to do right by their heart, but not by people who were closest to them. Faiza is a free-spirited artist with a fragile personality who has survived an abusive marriage. She seeks refuge in her good buddy Adil, and their friendship turns into an affair. Adil, who is married to Tara, wrestles with feelings of guilt and love that he feels for both these young women. In one sequence, we see Faiza ultimately break down in front of Adil after finding out that she’s been ostracized from their friends’ group and outings. It’s an interesting scene, because here we see how adultery in such a case usually plays out. This is also the bit where we not only see Faiza’s multidimensional personality, but Adil’s softer, more empathetic side. Jim Sarbh, who mostly had to react to Kalki’s outburst in this bit, lets you know in no uncertain terms that Adil is not just your regular spoilt brat. He understands Faiza, even as he attempts to placate her.
Jim Sarbh was excited to play Adil Khanna, he told indianexpress.com. “This was right at the heels of Sanju and Padmaavat, so I was happy to get this job, because in a way the Padmaavat and Sanju characters are larger than life, and very expressive. Those weren’t ordinary people, it wasn’t conversational in nature, those parts. So I was also interested in doing something more conversational. And I was blown away by the script of Made in Heaven,” said the actor.
Both Kalki and Jim are known to improvise when the scene allows it, but this scene, which was an intimate one, boiling with tension, it was the script all the way.
The actor said, “It’s pretty much 98 per cent on what is on paper, which I actually enjoy. I, that is Adil, has just had a big scandal at the office. I am not gonna shout because I don’t want any added attention drawn to this room, so I shut the door ASAP. I am trying to douse the fire in a calm way because of those things, but then there’s another part of my character that understands Faiza’s perspective and how Adil himself would have reacted had the same thing been happening to him. In fact, this is the first time Faiza reacts towards Adil so angrily, so he also recognises that the fact she’s so upset means something is actually up.”
Kalki, on the other hand, went back in time for us and tried to recall the mood of the set that day. “It was a fairly quiet day, because it was just me and Jim in the scene. I remember there’s lot of fuss about the costume, and I had a really nice dress and this faux fur coat, and we were deciding should we put it in scene. I remember saying I don’t have to wear it, but can I just hold it because it had a rich girl’s puppy feel to it, you know? It felt really right to hug that coat and it became a useful prop in this scene. I also remember Alankrita taking me through the stuff that had happened before this scene because you don’t shoot chronologically, it’s all jumbled up. Other than that, it was pretty straightforward.”
But when you have to perform such a scene and be so naked in front of the camera, one does wonder if actors end up taking back that heavy load from the set when the arch lights go off. Jim stated that treating it as a burden and washing yourself off the character might just be a Bollywood thing. “I am tempted to just say no, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. I think when you’re working with a good co-actor which Kalki is and the script is really good, then it’s just fun to do. I think maybe there’s an overemphasis on taking the parts home. I am not saying it doesn’t happen, if you have been playing a character for a while and you go over it again and again, that happens. But maybe it’s just a Bollywood thing, or I don’t know, a worldwide thing that you just go home and say ‘I have to clean myself’ etc. But then shouldn’t you have the technical skill to deal with it if you have to do it daily?”
A valid point. Meanwhile, Kalki mentioned that she used to be that way, to carry that taxing feeling with her always, but has now gotten better at dealing with it, thanks to years of experience. “So if I have an emotional scene, I give myself a routine after my day is over — just like going for a swim or watching something silly, otherwise you’re carrying something heavy all the time. But earlier, while doing such scenes, I was always in that intense zone, and it can be really exhausting. I have just learned to shift the energy,” Kalki added.
Faiza has a lot of things going on. The abuse she has faced, her parents’ refusal to offer support, her affair with Adil — all these things colour her in an interesting light. From society’s moral POV, she is a bad person who has let down her trusted friend in the worst way possible. But from the audience’s perspective, she has a reason to go into all these different directions, make some stupid choices and still feel guilt about it. She’s, as all people are, a multifaceted person carrying multitudes within herself. It’s not easy to box her.
Speaking about it, Kalki said, “I never judge a character, I feel like I have to walk in their shoes to understand them. I give the example of Euphoria, which is so good because it takes you through the worst characters’ background stories and you start to understand them, and that’s what you got to do as an actor, know your role inside out. And all the other clues are in the story. In case of Faiza, she’s faced terrible abuse, and she comes from a sheltered background, and her parents are worried about their reputation in the society. Adil is probably this one person who’s been a childhood friend, whom she can count on, so she turns to him. And she wears her heart on her sleeve, and that is the thing that jumped out about her when I was reading the script. I love her heart-of-sleeve-ness. She really feels everything.”
Kalki ended the chat on a mysterious note, stating that the romantic triangle of Tara, Adil and Faiza is going to get more convoluted in Season 2. So, who will you be rooting for?
Made in Heaven is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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