Made In Heaven Prime Series Mini-Review, Episode 1: Delhi Industrialists

What a fun show! And part of the fun is that each episode is it’s own distinct storyline, which means I can do fun little mini-reviews of each episode instead of trying to kill myself watching the whole season and doing one review real quick. (full index of Made in Heaven reviews is here)

Episode 1

This has to ease us in to the world of the main characters and at the same time tell a distinct story of one wedding. And so it goes with kind of a “basic” wedding conflict and wedding story, which also happens to coordinate with the heroine’s life.

Our heroine, Sobhita Dhulipala, is the wife of a wealthy industrialist heir, Jim Sarbh. She met him when she was hired as his secretary, but now she is the perfect rich daughter-in-law, perfect hair and make-up and clothes at all times. She is perfectly respectful and perfectly caring to her in-laws. And her husband has helped fund a perfectly respectable and appropriate hobby business, wedding planning. She has a fancy office and a less fancy business partner. At work, she is calm and in control. With her in-laws, she is too. But she reveals her vulnerability when she is in bed with her husband asking him to have sex with her, and when she is talking to her divorced best friend Kalki. And that vulnerability comes out in the final shots when she prepares a romantic dinner for her husband, only to have him skip it and the camera reveal he is sneaking off to spend the night with Kalki, her best friend with whom he is having an affair.

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Sobhita is on the far left, Arjun on the far right

Sobhita Dhulipala has a really interesting face, beautiful but also distinctive, you can see why her husband fell in love with her and why her in-laws accept her and are proud of her. In real life, she’s a former Miss India, but she didn’t rush from the pageant scene into acting. She was in Raman Raghav 2.0 in a small role, then took an interesting part in Chef with Saif, playing his ambitious Sous Chef. Saif used her again in Kaalakandi, and then she went south for two really good parts in really good movies, Goodacheri and Moothon. And now this. She is clearly picking the roles that are interesting to her rather than the roles that will give her a shortcut to being famous. I can see why Zoya picked her for this part, the looks and charisma to keep us watching (and be believable as a rich wife), the experience in a variety of roles and industries to perform well, and not the type who will dump this streaming series and try to move on to something better as soon as she gets a chance.

And then there is Sobhita’s business partner, Arjun Mathur. The show does a bit of a trick on us, when he is first introduced as the rumpled type she is ordering around, and then later waking up shirtless to have gangsters threaten him, and finally Sobhita and he going off during a party to talk together and him thanking her with a kiss on the cheek for loaning him money, all of this feels like “odd couple romance”. Very Moonlighting or Band Baaja Baarat, he is the “do whatever it takes to get the job” practical and easy to read type while she is the perfect unreadable beautiful woman, they will end up falling in love. But, nope! Half way through the episode, right after he kisses her at the party, he goes to a bar and picks up a guy. The twists keep coming, just as the show seems to have pigeonholed him as a player, his landlord talking about how he has so many different overnight guests and all, we get a flashback to his first love, a sweet flirtation in high school with a boy who passed him an “I Love You” note. And the episode ends with the same boy showing up in his apartment, still a part of his life somehow.

This show owes a lot to Band Baaja Baarat, but still manages to be its own thing. BBB is the first thing to really dig into the uniquely Delhi world of wedding planning, but this show takes that setting and goes in a totally different direction.

Arjun Mathur is a Zoya discovery, he played Farhan’s sincere actor friend in Luck By Chance. He’s a trained actor, did Barry John and Lee Strasberg, plus a few years as an AD, before he got his chance. He hasn’t had a lead role before, but he’s worked a bunch in prominent young man supporting parts, everything from the young reporter in My Name is Khan to Rahul Gandhi in The Accidental Prime Minister.

The main task of the film is to establish these characters, and the setting. Delhi is very specific, and very different from other parts in India. It’s about money more than anything else. Money, and power, and politics. There are the old royal families (looks like a later episode will get into them), but the real royalty is the money, the “industrialists”, the ones who founded factories in the post-Independence era and kept growing and growing since then. The weddings are how they confirm their wealth, the union of two powerful families blessed with lots and lots of money. Early in the episode we see a rival wedding planning company give that pitch, that this is the new royalty, that they should sell a wedding like they are Mughals or Rajputs, they are the best of the best and the wedding is the way to show that.

The wedding they are planning in this episode is one that parallels Sobhita’s love story. The bride is upper upper middle-class, overseas education, good job, westernized style, but she is not the same as the “industrialist” family she is marrying in to. It’s not “poor girl-rich boy”, it’s “rich girl-shockingly wealthy boy”. They had a modern love story, meeting through work (she was interviewing him), and then dating for a long time, before finally agreeing to get married. The wedding gets in trouble when the groom’s parents ask Sobhita and Arjun to investigate the bride and their investigation reveals that she had an abortion. The couple fights, and then goes off together with the groom declaring he is leaving his family behind, by sending a letter resigning from the company board. It’s a great introduction to a world in which business and money come first and weddings and love come second. And it’s resolved by Sobhita revealing how clearly she understands this world when she talks privately to the bride and tells her, no matter how much she thinks love is enough now, she will miss the money. It is so much money, you can’t just let it go without missing it. And Sobhita gives her advice, if they go back now, her in-laws will be grateful and accept her, and her life will be a lot easier. It’s not a reveal of Sobhita as an evil manipulator, or of the bride as that, but it is a reveal of how no one in this world is truly beyond money, that’s how this place works and you have to understand that.

Image result for made in heaven sobhita dhulipala

Which makes it a bigger question of Sobhita’s marriage. Did she marry him for his money? If she did, is that still the only reason she loves him? Does she want his baby to please her in-laws and keep their life tidy, or does she want his baby because she loves him? Why does she care so much about this wedding business? Is it boredom, is it an effort to build something for herself and try to escape, is it some true feeling for these marriages? On some level this episode seems to imply that last. She understands image, and love, and family in a way that lets her see through to the truth of these weddings and what they really mean and why they matter. Arjun starts out seeming like the one who cares more, desperate for money, desperate to hide his secret, and so on and so forth. But by the end his conflicts have kind of faded back, he may be gay, and his upper middle-class family may be pushing him to return their money (another character who is Delhi-poor, but anywhere-else-in-India rich), but it is Sobhita who cares about these marriages happening because they are marriages, because they are joining two people and families together, not just for the paycheck.

A couple other notes, Neena Gupta plays the mother of the groom and is wonderful (of course). And it’s also kind of hilarious to see her play this upperclass perfect respectable woman when she famously had a child out of wedlock in real life. We get the introduction of a few other characters in the wedding team without a lot of backstory for them, the older cynical woman office manager, the young videographer who gets caught up in the story he is watching through his camera, and the new hire Shivani Raghuvanshi who is the only truly “normal” Delhi-ite in the show. I’m pleased that Zoya and Reema included her, it would be easy to get caught up in the world of these characters, where Arjun is “poor” even though he has a nice apartment and parents who could lend him the money to start a business, and where the families who can afford to spend millions on a wedding are “normal”. Even the other employees at the agency are not “normal”, we can see that in their casual English and classy pure cotton clothes. They are the type that the uber-wealthy will feel comfortable working with, not as rich as they are, but still “acceptable”. Shivani is different, awkward with English, wearing clothes that don’t fit quite right, awestruck by the office itself. I’m sorry to see the end of Neena Gupta after this episode, btu excited to see where the other characters go.

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23 thoughts on “Made In Heaven Prime Series Mini-Review, Episode 1: Delhi Industrialists

  1. I have a major girl crush on Sobhita Dhulipada since Goodachari. She has such a stunning Indian face. She is like Lisa Haydon and classic Indian beauties like Jayapradha rolled into one.She has a very distinctive voice and this poised,classy appearance.
    I love the show. Good writing ,great production values,fab cast & very realistic performances.I am upto 5 episodes now.Only thing I hate is the woke boy voiceover from Shashank Arora summing up the gist for audience-not really needed in my opinion and sounds like spoon feeding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I hate the voice over too!!!! And I like the little asides from Shashank during the episode, they should have left it at that, not stuck the voice over in. Maybe it was a last minute addition? Some network note that they had to have a deeper meaning and tie up every episode with a little bow?

      And I am glad you are watching too! I just finished the second episode, review going up tomorrow, and I was worried I was the only one watching and people would be sick of the reviews.

      I agree about Sobhita, she has such a great look, and it’s perfect for this role. We can see why Jim would have wanted to marry her, and why her in-laws are proud of her, she is stunningly beautiful in a unique way, in a way that gives her distinction, she looks like more than just a golddigging pretty girl. And she wears clothes so well! It’s a real talent and not all actresses have it, to be able to wear clothes with confidence. I noticed it in Chef too, she was styled completely differently but immediately looked put together and confident and different. It’s really unfair to Arjun Mathar, after two episodes I still care so much less about his storyline than hers.

      On Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 11:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Sobhita has such a mature woman feel to her which was very apparent in Goodachari also. She’s not the typical love interest of the hero.No wonder she didn’t continue in Telugu.I am stalking her Instagram profile and her pictures and captions are to die for.
        Agree about Arjun Mathur’s story. he has a more emotionally draining story line but I’m not as invested as I am in Sobita’s & Jim’s story. Jim Sarbah is a good actor but doesn’t he look a bit too feminine & young for Sobhita and the whole powerful,rich industrialist part? I would have preferred someone bit older like Farhan Aktar or Saif Ali Khan in that role.

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        • From only two episodes in, I am mostly liking Jim Sarbh’s vibe. I like him as the son who took over the company but is still obligated to his parents, instead of more of a mature made it on his own type. They feel like a miss-matched couple to me (so far) partly because Sobhita feels more mature than him, and she has to kind of bend herself down to fit into the role of his wife. She is so smart and so good at her job, and then she has to go home and beg for little bits of affection.

          My problem with Jim’s casting is that he has such a distinctive look, and it feels like the sort of wealthy young man he is playing would have a perfect haircut and had his nose fixed and all of that. I mean, I love how Jim looks, but it isn’t the capped teeth and botox and nose job and relaxed hair that I would expect. I would have maybe cast someone a little more traditionally attractive and smoothed down.

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  2. I can’t discuss more about the series since this is the first episode review. Would be nice to have a character specific discussion at the end of your series watch. Also the series touches upon one societiel farce associated with marriage in each episode. I’m on the fence about the social commentary cos it feels too trying at times. Hope you can touch upon those more in the coming episodes review

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    • Definitely will do character specific discussion. I wish I could put up general discussion post right now, but I can’t! I’m selfish, I don’t want to get spoiled until I’ve finished the whole thing myself.

      I do love the wedding setting because it let’s the film deal with pretty much every part of Indian society, from religion to money to class to whatever else is covered in the episodes I haven’t seen yet 🙂 And without feeling like “this is a very special issue episode”, because all that stuff is just baked into the wedding setting already.

      On Sun, Mar 10, 2019 at 11:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. I binge-watched the whole thing; have so many things to discuss but am I the only person not really impressed with Jim Sarbh? He didn’t seem Punjabi at all. Infact in all his roles, his accent seems to stand apart from his character – sounds a mix of Persian+British (which is OK if that’s the role, but it clearly wasn’t in this case). He was also very western for his part I thought. The clothes were gorgeous though!!

    I also didn’t care for Arjun Mathur’s story beyond a point. I’m guessing section 377 was live and kicking when they shot this. But knowing it’s been struck down while watching it made it feel like I knew how it would end. I’m sure they can’t use it too much in S2. Also felt the show was too-woke and trying to the tick all the boxes for the woke/PC audience that it’s targeted at.

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    • I’m just on episode 3 now, but you are making me consider Jim Sarbh in a new light, and now I’m not sure if I like him or not. The roles where I really loved him, Padmavat and Raabta, he was very over the top and entertaining. But in this part, he has to be a lot more subtle. Maybe he just can’t do subtle? Maybe his subtle comes off as boring?

      Agree that the show had too much. To me it feels like the problem with these streaming limited series. If it was a traditional series, they could have course corrected half way through the season as they figured out what worked and what didn’t. But instead they kind of threw everything at the wall and only figured out what worked later. Sobhita’s performance and character are so much more interesting than Arjun’s, and her conflicts feel a lot more real and natural than his “being gay is a nightmare in modern India” simplified version. Especially since Veere Di Wedding and Ek Ladki both had happier versions of being gay. You know what might have been an interesting take for Arjun’s character and more in keeping with the themes of class and money? If he got to have a happy life as a privileged gay man, a more or less accepting family, open relationships, and so on. And the show investigated the kind of micro-aggressions and micro-prejudices he still has to face, combined with exploring his uncomfortable moments of guilt and awareness that not every gay man has the easy life he has. More in line with the way Sobhita’s character is drawn, she isn’t abused by her husband or her in-laws or anything like that, but she still suffers from the same powerlessness and worry that every daughter-in-law has, when will she have a baby, do her in-laws really accept her, what about her birth family, and so on.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 12:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Great first episode review! I’m pretty much equally into both lead character’s arc across the series. And what I really like is how their friendship is also at the core of the show. Sobhita’s beauty and poise is perfection, she’s like a perfect cross between Radhika Apte and Deepika. I also see the Lisa Haydon comparison. Always interesting to me to see Indian actresses coming onto the scene in their 30s…she also has a Chitrangada Singh maturity, too.

    All the actors in the show have their moments of woodenness and false emotion (except for maybe Jazz), but overall the acting is solid…Arjun Mathur has some pretty powerful moments as does Sobhita. I do think Kalki and Jim stick out in the show…there’s something so artificial and stagey about their way of acting…like they are doing a scene in drama class. And Jim Sarbh is such a unique look and presence and accent that he can be both compelling and repulsive in the same scene.

    I also don’t love the voiceover thing…it gets less obtrusive as we go since there’s a reason for it with Kabir’s character…there’s a reason why he does it. At least each episode’s voiceover isn’t as long as Meredith Grey’s on Grey’s Anatomy!

    In this first episode, I kind of think Neena Gupta’s character was too cliche for her to have much to add, but I really liked the actress who played the bride and thought she had a cool, modern vibe.

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    • One last comment on Jim Sarbh’s accent. I agree with filmikudhi that his accent is not too unusual with upperclass Indian’s who have studied abroad (but my Indian neighbor specifically called it out as being weird, too). It may not be the accent so much as his delivery…it’s so sinister and slinky or something. And there may even be a weird southern drawl in there (he did spend several years in Atlanta and I feel like actors especially are apt to take on regional accents easily and in his case I bet it’s part of an affectation). He’s a weird dude in interviews, too.

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      • I’m not even halfway through yet, but I am hoping they do something with his “weird dude” vibe. Beyond just a privilaged cheating husband, if the second season has him revealed as a vicious mobster or something, I would be down for that.

        On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 9:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I liked the bride actress too, and I think we were supposed to like her. So we would see Sobhita in her and like Sobhita better, and so we would like the bride herself and never doubt that it was a true love match. She was perfect for the successful intelligent western woman who still isn’t quite-quite. The short hair, the attitude, it all spoke to a kind of freedom and privilege, without crossing over into the kind of privilege her groom enjoyed. And then as the series goes on, we find out that Sobhita and she really aren’t that similar, Sobhita wasn’t coming from that same place before she got married.

      I think they had to have someone like Neena Gupta to pull off that role, she made you believe that this woman truly believes she is doing everything for her son’s happiness. With another actress it might have come across as false, like she knew she was lying to herself. But Neena makes you see her as a woman so steeped in her own values that she is truly incapable of seeing the other side. Which is where the “happy ending” makes sense, they HAVE to lie to her, over and over, because this is a person who will never be able to see reason.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 8:45 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I binge watched the entire series this weekend and well and might even watch it again before/if season 2 comes out. Initially, I did not think Jim Sarbh was the right fit but the more I think about it, the more his character did fit. His accent is one that most well to do Indians who have studied in Indian-international schools in India and then abroad for college. His clothes are impeccably tailored. He is smooth and entitled. For example, he genuinely thinks of himself as a “good guy” because the basic rules of society (don’t cheat, don’t lie etc.) that apply to everyone else do not apply to him because they never had growing up.

    Additionally, I really loved both Shobhita’s and Arjun’s story equally. Especially as you see if progress. Can’t wait to discuss more as you put out more reviews. To me, this might be one of the most well made and nuanced shows I have seen in recent times. I didn’t even mind most of the voice overs.

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    • I’m so glad so many people watched it! I love Jim Sarbh and am trying to keep an open mind on his role. There is an advantage in his appearance at first glance, telling you that he is beyond the superficial trying to look like everyone else kind of attitude, helps to explain why he was confident enough to marry a secretary and now have an affair with his wife’s best friend.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 8:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I feel so out of the loop because I didn’t like the first episode at all. I found of all the characters to be extremely unpleasant and I didn’t care much what happened to any of them. Sobhita was too opaque and emotionally removed for me to engage with her character. Admittedly I didn’t make it to the end of the episode so if there’s some sudden spark or surge I missed it.

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    • Sobhita has a great scene right at the end, a couple actually. So it might be worth continuing. And the second episode has the funnest self contained story so far, so you can try that one too. And then stop if you still don’t like it.

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  7. I think Jim was a great choice. He has an innocent face but there is always something cagey and sinister about him and that for sure is the character. I liked the first episode if for no other reason, it hooked me in.

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    • We were saying in some other comment that the first couple episodes felt choppy. I think that is because they goal was that drawing you in, they wanted to get you hooked on the marriage problems and the secret gay life and the troubled business all at once. And it worked! By the end of the first episode, I was eager to see more. And then by the third episode, things slowed down a little and it all flowed more naturally.

      On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 4:45 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. The guy who shows up at Arjun’s doorstep at the end is definitely not his childhood love Nawab. *SPOILERS He’ll make an appearance towards the end of the series as Ranveer Shorey.

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  9. Just starting to watch the series and I’m loving it! Jim Sarbh is certainly not afraid to play characters we might not like.

    I had forgotten that Goodachari was where I had seen Sobhita. (It was making me crazy!) So glad you’re doing posts.

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    • So glad you are watching it! I finished the whole thing in 48 hours after a couple of late nights. Try to resist the siren call of binging! By the end, I was exhausted and having a hard time remembering what happened in which episode.

      On Mon, Mar 18, 2019 at 12:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  10. Ok, I understand it a bit better after reading. The scenes with Kalki and Sobhita are taking place in the present, I guess.

    Like

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