Made in Heaven Watchalong Episode 6: Munglik

Oops, in all the Rani excitement I forgot to post this yesterday. Oh well, I can post the next one late tonight and double up.

The wedding story is very short and simple, which is too bad because I really liked the bride in this storyline, she is immediately charming and just kind of fun. The groom’s family is from London, the bride’s family is local. The bride was adopted, but Sobhita uses their private investigator to find her birth certificate for the astrologer, who declares her “munglik” and so she must marry a tree. The parents all treat this as a joke, ha-ha, it isn’t serious or real, we will just do it so we can sleep at night. But the groom is furious when he finds out, feels like he doesn’t know his bride any more, blames her. It’s an interesting little story, because it positions the bride in a can’t win place. She was happy going along with the ceremony so long as she could pretend it didn’t matter or mean anything, she had made her peace with her decision. But now her fiance is blaming her for something she was force into by his parents, making her question her own decision. As a woman, she is carrying the whole force of all the competing ideas of society. That is what it means to be “munglik”, to have to take the blame for everything that could happen.

Phillauri didn’t have to do anything else to be progressive, just the idea of the groom being the “manglik” one instead of the bride is enough

Which is the theme of the episode. Everyone being blamed for things that are not their fault. This is the episode when Arjun is arrested, the thing that has been hanging over him all along. He is dragged from his apartment, calling out to the daughter from downstairs to call Tara. He is thrown in jail, and they can’t get him out for two days, and only then because they pay an enormous bribe. Tara, who has been debating her relationship with Jim, has no hesitation in insisting on his assistance in helping Arjun. As meaningful as their embrace late in the episode, is the way she immediately uses every connection Jim has to to help him. They get him out, but not until after he is beaten for refusing to have sex with a guard. And then the darkest reveal of the episode, the origin of his shame and why he keeps remembering his first love, his mother found them together and beat him with a cricket bat until his hand was broken. It comes out after the reporters come to their door and his father speaks up for him, says that he loves his son and he has done nothing wrong. Finally Arjun has the catharsis to confront his mother, the source of all his struggle with his identity, his argument that no one would understand if he told the truth, that his is just the way the world is and how you have to be.

Sobhita has her own catharsis when she goes to Kalki’s house and destroys it. And Kalki has a realization too, in therapy, after talking around and around and trying to blame Sobhita for changing, for making Jim fall out of love with her, she realizes that she just misses Sobhita, that it is the betrayal of her friend that was the terrible thing, and she has to take responsibility for that. It’s Jim who is being left out of this, a sign of how shallow he is as a person, that these two women find it is their relationship with each other more than their relationship with him that drives them.

And then there’s Arjun. He gets out of jail, and he is furious, and planning to sue his landlord. Until he talks to him and Vinay calls him “brave” and he understands, without the words being said, that Vinay is gay too, that Vinay is as trapped as he is, that suing him would just be sending one more gay man to jail.

The episode moves forward the most the storyline of Shivani and Shashank Arora (the videographer). Shivani comes to the office to ask for her job back, and Shashank offers her a ride home. She gives a fake address, but he finds out the truth when she leaves her phone in the car. All along Shashank has been the cynical one, with little sympathy for the people he sees in his camera, enjoying teasing Shivani for her pretensions and dreams. This is a wake up call for him, to see where she really comes from, the world of Delhi he has been blind to all along, the neighborhoods ravaged by drugs and the people struggling to survive. He encourages her to come back to the office and we are unsurprised to see Arjun greet her at the end of the episode with a smile of welcome and a glass of water.

And then there is one other “munglik” character, Vijay Raaz, the gangster. At the start of the series, the money for the business came from Vijay and Jim Sarbh. Vijay was the scary one, the threatening gangster, while Jim Sarbh seemed safe and reliable. But now we are halfway through and Jim Sarbh is more and more the one who causes the danger, while Vijay Raaz has been unfairly given the “munglik” title. And so Sobhita and Arjun go to meet him and strike a deal. He is friendly, he is okay, he understands their money struggles and agrees to a partnership in the business instead of paying back the loan. It’s a small turn away from the wealthy power brokers of the city towards the real people of the city, away from the international Jim Sarbh types and to the folks who live there. Those who are called “munglik” but aren’t, who are cursed by their circumstances but are not in themselves curses to bear.

Boy, now that I write it out, there really wasn’t much in this episode! I guess all the time spent making sure we truly appreciated the impact of Arjun’s arrest and how terrible it was meant there wasn’t really time for any other significant plot points.

5 thoughts on “Made in Heaven Watchalong Episode 6: Munglik

  1. I thought it was a good episode. Though I still struggle with how beautiful Jim Sarbh is and how much I can’t really look at him because I want to set his character on fire.

    The prison part is so good because it shows so much. How straight men are in control of all of it; how Arjun is a privileged person in society but it counts for nothing as soon as he gets put in jail, and as someone who works in this field, I thought it was well done. I also liked the lawyer. We all get those clients that have a good case and won’t do anything about it for personal reasons, and it’s exasperating but also you totally understand why they wouldn’t.

    What I thought was a very odd choice indeed though was when Tara is like what would your ENGLISH friends think if they knew she was marrying a tree?? I totally thought she was going to say “if they knew you were boycotting us on the basis of one of us being a high-profile LGBT martyr” which would make waaaay more sense. The type of person who thinks marrying a tree is stupid most likely wouldn’t agree with discrimination, even if they dared to publicly support something illegal if the victim got as much press as Arjun does.

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    • I saw the “English friends-marrying a tree” as slightly different from the Queer issues, in that the tree marriage is specifically about religion, while the Queer stuff is more about society? So, like, she is forcing them to acknowledge that they don’t “really” believe in their religion, not when it is challenged by the standards of those around them.

      Also, realistically, I could see upper class rich English people being very uncomfortable with aggressive Queer rights and willing to look the other way about a family firing someone to avoid being tarred with that brush, while the same people would fall into patronizing colonial thinking as soon as they heard about strange “religions tradition” behavior.

      On Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 9:47 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yeah I guess I get that. It came across as a weird choice to me though, if I were her I’d totally pressure with the queer rights.

        In the UK it wouldn’t be aggressive queer rights though, it’s the norm. I could see them looking the other way if it was a low profile thing, but in the series, Karan has a lot of press attention. If they are desi and highly conservative, it would be even worse, because even the right wing press would be like “see how much brown people hate gays let’s throw them out”.

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        • Yeah. This episode kind of felt all of the place and not thought fully through in maybe a purposeful way? Like, everything happening in the wedding story suddenly just dropped away and stopped being important once Arjun was arrested. Just like the Jim-Sobhita marriage stuff suddenly turned into meaninglessness after Arjun’s arrest.

          Oh! Speaking of! I love that Jim is mostly supportive of Arjun! The show didn’t turn him into a cartoon who is evil about everything, just the realistic amount of evil for his character. He isn’t homophobic but he is a little bit “going out of his way for literally any other living person” phobic.

          On Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 11:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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