Made In Heaven, Amazon Prime’s recent 9 episode original series was haunting me from all directions until very recently. All my friends were talking about it, gasping breathless upon finding out I haven’t seen it. There was a big fat hoarding of the show right outside my house and the cast had each and every indie artiste I’ve ever had a crush on.
But I was avoiding it, because Zoya Akhtar is pyaar and Reema Kagti is unrequited pyaar. I just wasn’t sure if I could’ve handled a badly written queer storyline from them.
But man, I was wrong AND HOW. This is probably the first time I’ve loved being wrong. I can write a book on the various topics the show deals with from politics, to marriage, feminism, relationships etc. But I’m going to stick to the glorious queer storyline and it’s various facets in the series.
Made In Heaven should be the yardstick for future queer Indian cinema
Mainstream Indian cinema has had a rather long and painful history of being deeply insensitive and ignorant about queer lives and struggles. Gay characters have lived in flamboyance and overt femme panache on the Indian screen since Anupam Kher’s “Pinku” (film: Mast Kalandar, 1991) or maybe even earlier.
But after the reading down of section 377, we have seen short films like Faraz A. Ansari’s Sisak and Sridhar Rangayan’s Evening Shadows collect accolades and little but much needed acceptance. At the same time, mainstream content and film makers have increasingly endeavoured to portray the LGBTQIA+ community in a much better light. From Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga to Four More Shots to Sacred games, we have quite a large part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum covered compared to the caricatured Gay man and the absent trans and queer female representation.
Made In Heaven trumps them all, it shows the gay man as a ‘normal’ human being with struggles other than finding his next fix and beau for the night. It addresses the brutality of section 377 unapologetically, highlighting the violation homosexual people have experienced both in their homes and behind bars due to the archaic and now thankfully dead law. And it does so through flawless writing and deliciously nuanced acting.
Every Indian show/movie/video featuring a queer storyline will and should be compared to Made In Heaven. Even I took notes, incase I ever want to act on my pipe dream of being a queer Indian actress.
A tear-jerking depiction of chosen families and ‘real’ families in a gay man’s life
To live as a homosexual person in India is to live a double life. You tactfully avoid discussion around marriage at home, fake heterosexuality, grow up homosexual AND homophobic at the same time.
“Don’t tell your father ever.” or “Your father will commit suicide when you tell him of your illness. It will be your fault.” is something almost every queer teenager has heard when they’ve tried to come out to their mothers.
Karan’s father’s support towards his son, the progression of their relationship is a believable ideal that we hope parents take note of.
What members of the queer community end up doing instead is making a ‘chosen family’. A circle of loving and accepting friends that we lean on. We end up getting ‘the talk’ from them, they approve our dates and they help us keep our chins up. That, is the kind of relationship Karan & Tara have instead of Karan being straight Tara’s “Gay best friend”. Friendships between individuals are beautiful, complex, nourishing and almost never based on sexuality.
Made in heaven introduces us to the closeted gay man in a heterosexual marriage
In a patriarchal and colonially motivated society like India, there is one burden that men can seldom shirk. That burden, is the burden of being ‘macho’ or ‘alpha’. There are some very problematic stereotypes that one is born into, the most poignant of those being Gay men are not ‘macho’. Hence if thou art Gay in India, thou shall stay silent. There are numerous gay men in heterosexual marriages, some are in honest ‘marriages of convenience’, some procreate and then live a secret life while their wives sit at home wondering what she did wrong.
And some never even realise they are gay and/or it is okay to be so until they intrude someone’s privacy and their teenage daughter tells them Homosexuality is not new, intolerance is.
The inimitable Vinay Pathak portrays the character of one such man and gives us a very nuanced peak into the lives of Indian closeted gay men married to women.
My favourite part is the fact that even the minor characters, the ones Karan dates or has intimate relations with. Even these characters were not ‘just gay’ they had their own stories and characteristics. Their own personalities and depth. I finished the series in one all nighter sitting with my girlfriend and we are aching for another season. In conclusion I would just like to say queer Indian cinema, has FINALLY arrived y’aaall!