The second season of the fan-favourite show, Made In Heaven, was one of the most highly anticipated seasons of this year. The new season dives back into the grandeur of larger-than-life weddings, uncomfortable truths, and lots of drama. It delivers on the promise of being complex, engaging, and binge-worthy, while diving into thought-provoking themes. Made In Heaven focuses on what goes on behind the scenes of the booming wedding planning business. But apart from the major appreciation received for the show, the makers have also turned out to be at the centre of controversy taking Yashica Dutt’s formal credit demands.
The narrative of this show is depicted from the point of view of two wedding planners who navigate through their personal and professional tribulations. The web series garnered a lot of attention and admiration for its marvellous cast and for engaging with important social themes such as same-sex relationships, colourism, polygamy, caste discrimination, domestic abuse and much more. Aired on 10th August 2023 on Prime Video, the show opened to largely positive reviews. But the team also found themselves in the middle of snowballing controversies surrounding the show.
The Yashica Dutt Controversy
Out of the few controversies brimming about the show, one that piqued everyone’s attention was author Yashica Dutt‘s public revelation that accused Made In Heaven 2 makers of using her work without her consent. Yashica came forward on her social media platforms to claim her credit, stating that the makers of the web series have used her real-life story for giving birth to Radhika Apte’s character. Episode 5 of the show – ‘The Heart Skips A Beat’, delves into the life of Pallavi Menke, a fictional character, portrayed by Radhika.
Pallavi is an Ivy League lawyer and an accomplished Dalit author, who has an inter-caste marriage. She is outspoken about her caste identity and wants to be treated as an ‘equal’, suggesting her fiancé should marry in a Dalit-Buddhist wedding. The episode is being lauded for its sensitive portrayal of a Dalit family and for showing a Buddhist wedding on screen, which is a rarity in Hindi cinema. In fact, BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar also praised the idea and execution of the same on X (formerly known as Twitter).
I absolutely loved the assertion, defiance and resistance of the Dalit woman character — Pallavi.— Prakash Ambedkar (@Prksh_Ambedkar) August 14, 2023
For those Vanchits and Bahujans who have watched the episode — Assert your identity and only then you gain political prominence. As Pallavi puts it, “Everything is about the… pic.twitter.com/i9YETwyLqc
Yashica Dutt herself is a Columbia University alumni and author of the book ‘Coming Out As Dalit.’ She called out the makers of the show, Neeraj Ghaywan, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti for misappropriating her life and work. Yashica alleged that certain incidents in the character Pallavi’s life bear a stark resemblance to hers. She explained how thrilling it was for her to see Dalit representation on screen, and even called it a “cinematic triumph” in her extensive post. However, she also noted how she was not okay with being ignored in the credits despite Pallaví’s story being eerily similar to her own.
For example, like Yashica, Pallavi also studied at Columbia, wrote a book on the subject of “coming out as a Dalit,” and spoke about her grandmother ‘manually cleaning toilets.’ She said “The scene in the show where Pallavi asserts her selfhood with her life partner-to-be, gave me chills. It was surreal to see a version of my life on screen that wasn’t but yet was still me. But soon the heartbreak set in. They were my words but my name was nowhere. What could have been a celebration of our collective ideas was now tinged with sadness. The ideas I cultivated, that are my life’s work, that I continue to receive immense hate still for just speaking, were taken without permission or credit.”
What The Showmakers Had To Say
Responding to Yashica’s claims, Directors Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Alankrita Srivastava and Neeraj Ghaywan categorically denied that the Dalit bride played by Radhika Apte was drawn from Yashica Dutt and her life. After the episode went live, Neeraj thanked several thinkers and writers, including Dutt in his Instagram post. He lauded Yashica saying “Thanks to @yashicadutt and her book (Coming Out as a Dalit) which made the term “coming out” become part of the popular culture lexicon for owning one’s Dalit identity. This inspired Pallavi’s interview section in the episode.“
In response to Yashica’s detailed post regarding her right to be formally credited, the creators of Made In Heaven 2 put out a statement of their own. “In the episode, the character, Pallavi Menke mentions her grandmother’s back story. This narrative of cleaning toilets was included because it is a common history that came up recurrently in our research of the community. Pallavi Menke’s fictional book, “Denied” is a hat-tip to several books like Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla, Caste Matters by Suraj Yengde, Coming Out As Dality by Yashica Dutt and the Tarshi article by Sumit Baudh. We have immense respect for them and their experience and their work that has admirably shed light on caste based discrimination.“
They concluded the note saying “Through his previous work and this episode, Neeraj Ghaywan has added to the discourse. We made this show with sincerity, passion and a beating heart and are overwhelmed with the love we have received. We will continue to platform stories and voices that are truly bigger than us.”
The TT Controversy
Yashica’s issue is not the only controversy surrounding Made In Heaven 2. The show has found itself at the brunt of a veteran fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani accused them of “violating the understanding behind the provision of clothing.” The clothes for the second season of the show have been styled by Bhawna Sharma. In a series of Instagram stories, the label claimed that the episode featuring Mrunal Thakur in Made in Heaven 2 used his designs sans credit and that he didn’t know his creations would be presented by a “fictitious designer” on the show. The Tarun Tahiliani studio had provided clothes to the show’s stylist in good faith so as to be styled in the second episode of the show.
Calling it the ‘most unfortunate thing done by a popular OTT series’, they posted screenshots of stills from the episode, saying “Unfortunately, a fictitious designer (actor) representing a fictitious label presented our garments! This is a shocking breach of faith. If this is what the production house intended, they should have engaged a costume designer, had costumes designed, and proceeded as they saw fit.” They concluded the statement with the hope that this scenario does not repeat itself with other designers who have graciously lent their work for OTT productions.
The audience at large has mixed opinions regarding the surfacing controversies surrounding the show. On one hand, Made In Heaven 2 portrays many evils of the society that needed to be unmasked, making it a much-needed OTT show of today’s time. On the other hand, the showrunners’ process is at question when a major Dalit rights activist fights for formal credits publicly. Both the sides present conflicting views so it ultimately comes down to the viewers and their thoughts on the matter. Let us know what you think?