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Heaven and hell: Delhi has two faces

Heaven and hell: Delhi has two faces
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By Manisha Lakhe  Mar 17, 2019 2:42:44 PM IST (Updated)

There’s South Delhi that’s chiffon and champagne posh and there’s that’s oh-mah-gosh who are these people Delhi. And in between these two singularly different Delhis lies the truth about people that’s inexorably human.

"The theme is Ivory," says Tara Khanna.

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"Madam-sir, do din se ghar nahi gayi hoon," says Vimla.
I’m caught between two shows, knowing I will binge watch both and more and also sneak in the second season of Secret City, by telling my brother I am suffering the after effects of eating panipuri from a new guy near last evening’s film screening, so cannot make it to his wife’s brother’s kid’s birthday party.
There’s South Delhi that’s chiffon and champagne posh and there’s that’s oh-mah-gosh who are these people Delhi. And in between these two singularly different Delhis lies the truth about people that’s inexorably human. It’s fascinating that both Amazon Prime and Netflix have chosen Delhi as the setting for their Indian shows.
Amazon Prime has ‘Made In India’, and Netflix has ‘Delhi Crime’. Two shows as different from one another as can get, but here I was, taking it all in, with lots and lots of ginger tea.
If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s predictability. It’s like football. You know it’s tough to get that ball away from Lionel Messi when it seems to magically attach itself to him, but it’s awesome when you see the defenders try to keep it from reaching the goal.
It’s like watching Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play. You will take sides, but the feeling of elation when an ace sneaks past the great on the opposite side, or after a neverending rally, you feel the whoosh of the air gets stuck in your throat. Now that kind of joy is what I look for in a show or a movie.
Made In Heaven as you have seen from the trailer, is a South Delhi version of Band Baaja Baraat (where the song identified that feeling of ‘chai mein dooba biscuit ho gaya…’). A concept brought to you by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar.
Nine episodes that not only showcase great Indian weddings but also give us a taste of the troubles that come with families. And you begin to watch taffeta unravel: should parents set a detective after their son’s girlfriend? How much does money motivate people? Should older women deserve happiness? What do you do when there are drunk brides to be, and jealous grooms and unhappy employees and how long do fake smiles last?
The protagonists run a wedding planning business and they know that getting involved with their clients’ lives is not right, but they are drawn into those problems. While you and I wonder if we should just order in and watch the show straight through, the protagonists are juggling debts and lust (yes, there is Grindr style pickups, and straight sex) and making everyone happy by organising everyone’s lives.
If you are going to play a drinking game for downing a drink for every time you see a supposedly naked man lying in bed on his stomach (white comforter covering his derriere), you would be drunk. This is such a bad romance wallah stereotype, you wonder why they do not think differently.
Then the whole thing went downhill for me. There was a predictable pattern. No matter how complicated and life-shattering a problem is, the two planners (Arjun Mathur and Sobhita Dhulipala) and their team manage to solve it. Whether it is ‘go to the gods to ask for absolution’ or ‘go to the reluctant children and emotionally blackmail them to attending the wedding’, they solve it all.
Of course, the team is made up of characters quirky enough to shame quirky out of the dictionary. Parents who loaned crores, but behave as though their world is made of delicate china about to shatter. And yes, a rich man who has an affair with his wife’s best friend is like worst ever. And when they’re coo-chi-cooing in the car, you’re thinking, now they’re going to crash. And you get up and get yourself more tea because they do.
But I watched. And watched. Because Made In Heaven is inhabited by women with bee-stung lips, and are shaped like models, the clothes are fabulous and the settings are too. The show has very high production values and the supporting cast is simply outstanding. Like the landlord’s wife, the production head who is a single mother, the parents to a young girl who works with the team. And every couple seems to be interesting until their story turns into a trope.
From dowry to drunk sex this show has everything. The special guests in every episode make it an interesting watch. But there is practically nothing, nothing that is not predictable. And that includes pastels and rose petals and wedding pastry.
That brings me to the other Delhi story which has been commissioned by Netflix, and it will be released on March 22. Initially, I balked at the idea of having to watch violence associated with the December 16 case of gang rape of a young woman in a moving bus, whom the politicians named ‘Nirbhaya’.
The case shocked our nation because it was horrific and I did not want too a Crime Patrol kind of violence. But I watched. It is so brilliant I forgot to drink tea more than a couple of times through its seven-episode telling of the story of police work that went into finding the perpetrators of the crime.
Shefali Shah, Rajesh Tailang, Rasika Dugal, Jaya Bhattacharya, Vinod Sherawat, Adil Hussain are just amazing. With every moment your respect for the cops just goes up. Did I use the word ‘respect’ for Indian cops? Supposedly the most corrupt?
You see how the cops cracked a heinous crime within days despite the pressure from the politicians and the circus in the media and the nationwide outrage in the public. I was expecting to see beating up of suspects and hard-core interrogation techniques which are a characteristic of almost all cop shows online. And cinema has made Dirty Harry and Dabangg heroes. But this show documents the frustrations and joys of the job when working night and day.
The show starts too tamely with traffic cops being negligent and I was not very sure as to where the story was going. But when Shefali Shah (what a brilliant casting!) as DCP takes charge naturally you get drawn into her professional as well as her personal story. When the case is simply awful, we learn the importance of teamwork.
I was amazed at how smoothly the team is set up and begins to work together. And when you realise the constraints under which the police do their job, you wonder if we as citizens need to look at them kindly. Perhaps cop shows like CSI have fooled us into believing procedures are easy. The gritty reality is so well brought out in this crime story, that you will hesitate in deriding cops and calling them ‘Thulla’ (in Delhi, comes from the Hindi word ‘Nithalla’ or ‘useless’) or ‘Pandu’ (in Mumbai, meaning ‘fool’).
By the time I was watching the second episode I was completely fascinated. I cancelled everything real life demanded and continued to watch. This is so engrossing, and the crime is so heart-rending, you will not be able to taste anything you eat.
Delhi’s cold weather seeps into your skin and the crime will make you shiver at the sheer audacity and inhumanity of the event. But the story leaves you in awe of how different branches within the police can work to solve a crime and not much help from the government.
This show uncovers a hellish Delhi, and yet when the credits for the seventh episode run, you watch them until the end, knowing that despite the horrid reputation the police work for us.
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