Made in Heaven Character Discussion Post: Shivani/Jazz and Shashank/Kabir

I’m combining these two, because their storyline was so interwoven in this season. Plus, interest in the MiH posts is dwindling so I want to get them over with. (oh, and index of all my Made in Heaven reviews is here)

Jazz and Kabir are placed together by the narrative and made into a bit of false equals. They are both more of the lower level assistant kind of working roles. I realized halfway through the series that part of the reason Zoya feels so comfortable with this setting is that it is almost identical to a film set. You have the visionaries, Sobhita/Tara and Arjun/Karan in the roles of the director/writer. The bride and groom are the demanding “stars”. And the family is the producers funding it all. And then you have the “production” folks, the ones who are from the lowest part of society and do the things like packing boxes and tying ribbons. It’s a strange and wonderful melting pot of Indian society, everyone coming together to make a dream come true, and brought into a closeness through that shared goal. Jazz and Kabir, they are the lower down ones, the ones who don’t really interact with the clients as much (Kabir does the interviews, but he doesn’t do the sales), the ones who have to do the grunt work.

The first part of the series seems to be setting up an idea that Jazz will have a crush on Karan, her boss, the one far above her, and then get over that and see the lowly fellow “servant” type who loves her. But then the second half goes in a far more interesting direction and says “no, the world is more complicated than that”. First, although at work they are together in the lower production level, in the real world they aren’t actually the same class. Kabir is shocked when he sees how she lives. Falling for Kabir would still be reaching above her class for her, and him reaching down. And that brings with it the same challenges of miss-communication and power abuses that we see played out among the much higher classes.

Jazz is a fascinating character, she is like Sobhita in so many ways except that, where Sobhita was trained and believed that marriage was her only way out, Jazz over the course of this series, early on in her journey, learns to see things a different way. She loves her job, and she is good at her job. She still gets a crush on the boss and goes after him, and when that doesn’t work out, she starts considering a new dream castle around her almost-equal-at-work-but-superior-in-the-world Kabir. She struggles with this relationship and ultimately lets it go too, sees that he isn’t what she really wants. Her pride and hope comes from the success of her job, from the satisfaction of helping the last bride find her own happiness, and putting one over on the most powerful people of the city. She can go back to her old boyfriend without feeling like she is betraying her future or making a “foolish” choice, because she is so much more than just who she sleeps with.

Jazz is also a bit of a statement on affirmative action or, in Indian terms, “scheduled castes”. She isn’t low caste that I can see, and she is Sikh anyway so a bit beyond caste, but she is desperately poor. And because she is so poor, she gets cut some slack that would not be offered to another employee. And that is fair. She messes up twice, the first time when she posts images, that is something anyone might have done who was new to the job, excited about rubbing shoulders with celebrities, and she makes up for it with her own intelligence and ability, showing her value. The second time though, that is directly related to her poverty and background. She buys clothes with the office credit card because she has never had such nice clothes before, because she has to slip while watching these people that have so much and she has so little, it’s an impulse but it is an impulse born of massive economic injustice. And she is forgiven and rehired partly because she really really needs the job, and she deserves to be forgiven for a mistake born of systemic injustice. It’s one small story of empathy and understanding and using privilege as you can to make things equal. Compared to, for instance, in Ki & Ka when Arjun’s reaction to the maid meeting her boyfriend in their apartment is to take advantage of her further, not to understand the massive advantages he already has and avoid “punching down” even more.

Image result for made in heaven jazz shivani

That “punching down”, that is what bothers me about Kabir’s character. He starts out seeming kind and sympathetic, he is good in his interviews with the families, he is nice to Jazz, and so on. But eventually we see how he looks down on everyone involved and, to me, it feels like he is blind to his own privilege. It’s easy for a man with an education to be dismissive of a young woman who is trying to make the best marriage she can. Or be dismissive of Jazz, his co-worker, who seems a bit starry eyed about the wealth they work in. To say they have false values or wrong values and so on. But, has he ever been hungry? Or afraid? Or felt he did not have the freedom to say what he wants? No, he hasn’t! It’s different to choose a lower path than to be forced on it.

And that’s what I got from his interactions with Jazz as they become clear in the last episode. He was her friend, helpful, for the first half of the series. When he saw what her background really was like, he was sympathetic and helped her get her job back. And then he keeps photographing her, looking at her, acting like he finds her beautiful, until they have sex. It’s a mutual decision to have sex, no promises involved, and no regrets. But then he keeps trying to take her hand, to hug her, and so on. He may not ever say it out loud, but the message he is giving her is “I really really like you, I want to be boyfriend-girlfriend, I want a real relationship and not just one night”. She confronts him, and he doesn’t respond, leaving her to assume that she was right in her assumption. And then he invites her to his apartment and we, the audience, discover that he isn’t some poor struggling cameraman living at home, he is rich enough to have his own large-ish apartment with a girlfriend. His free time isn’t spent worrying about his family and bills and so on, it is spent getting high with his friends. And Jazz discovers that rather than falling in love with her, he has had a girlfriend all along.

This is just wrong, I think. Not for Jazz and Kabir to have sex in the first place, we don’t know the terms of his relationship (his girlfriend says she has heard about Jazz which to me implies that Kabir tells her everything), and Jazz’s deal with her garage man is clearly on her terms whenever she wants it with no promises. But what was wrong was to lead Jazz on, especially when he knew she was a young woman of a different class, one who would expect love to be followed by marriage, and one who might count a lot on marriage to someone like him. If this whole thing was to “teach her a lesson”, that is terribly patronizing and patriarchal, to decide for himself that Jazz should learn not to count too much on a man. And if the whole thing was an accident, that is disgustingly insensitive, to not think through the message he was sending by his behavior, or at least tell her straight out when she brings it up “I am polyamorous, I love my girlfriend, but if you are okay with that, I would like to be with you too.”

Image result for made in heaven kabir

That’s how Kabir’s character reads to me by the end of the series. A skewering of hypocrisy and false virtue, of the type who rejects all the rules of society so long as you follow his own new rules for how to be. While Jazz is his opposite, the character who lives most firmly in the real world where you can try to do your best, to be a free-thinker and an open-mind, but the obstacles in front of you are enormous.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Made in Heaven Character Discussion Post: Shivani/Jazz and Shashank/Kabir

  1. That was a wonderful critique of Kabir as a character. After binge watching the show and staying up late, I needed to know what others thought of him and his behavior. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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    • Thank you for commenting! What did you think of him? I am honestly not sure if I am reading him correctly or not. He seems like the wise “woke” voice that should be the guide for the viewer, but then his actions in the last episode just don’t make sense to me unless he is supposed to be a bit of a jerk, his whole “woke” thing is just because he has never had to ask himself the hard questions that everyone else in the show struggles with.

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