- The filmmakers say the particular episode is based on Pallavi Menke, a Dalit from Maharashtra who studied and teaches law at Columbia.
Makers of the second season “Made In Heaven” have refuted claims by author Yashica Dutt that an episode featuring a Dalit author is based on her life, work and idea. In a series of Instagram posts, Dutt had expressed her displeasure in not being acknowledged in the series’ credits, and requested the director and show creators to formally recognize her contributions within the show’s credits.
Show creators Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti as well as season 2 co-directors Alankrita Shrivastava and Neeraj Ghaywan issued a joint statement to refute Dutt’s claims. “We are deeply disturbed with the misleading reports and comments in the context of author Yashica Dutt claiming formal credit for her ‘contribution’ to Made in Heaven, a show set around wedding planners and remarkable brides who challenge prejudices deeply ingrained in our society.”
Dutt has claimed in a series of social media posts that the fifth episode — “The Heart Skips a Beat” — directed by Ghaywan, himself a Dalit, featuring Radhika Apte as Pallavi Menke was inspired by her life. But filmmakers say it was inspired by the real-life Menke, they described as “an outspoken Dalit personality,” from Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. She studied law at Columbia, , where she also teaches, “and is likely to be tenured as a professor,” they added.
According to them, “the central conflict” of the episode is whether Menke “should fight to have the wedding rituals that are a signifier of her identity, or not.” They “categorically” denied “any claim that Ms. Dutt’s life or work was appropriated by us.”
Instead, they explained that “Coming out” is “a 1950’s academic LGBTQIA term that was first used by Mr. Sumit Baudh in the Indian caste identity context in 2007,” which he used in an article he wrote for Tarshi, a non-profit organization in New Delhi. “A decade later it was used by Ms. Dutt in her book. This term has since become common parlance for reclaiming caste-identity,” they said. In the episode, 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 Dalit’ by Yashica Dutt and the Tarshi article by Sumit Baudh,” they explained.
Since the second edition of the series launched on Amazon Prime on Aug. 10, Ghaywan has received a lot of praise for tackling a sensitive and often taboo topic, casteism. In an Instagram post, he acknowledged that the episode was “partially inspired” by Dutt’s book “Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir.”
However, Dutt said in a social media post that his admission came after several viewers flagged her “missing credentials” in the episode. She also insisted that Apte’s character is also based on her.
She went on to note the scenes that she says are taken out of her book. The book written by Apte on “Coming Out,” and her anecdotes about her grandmother “manually cleaned toilets,” and how she “asserts her selfhood with her life partner-to-be,” gave her “the chills,” she wrote. Noting that it was “surreal to see a version of my life on screen that wasn’t but yet was still me,” she was “heartbroken” to see that although it were her words, her name was nowhere mentioned. “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.”
She urged Akhtar and Kati to acknowledge the Dalit labor and set a precedent for giving credit where it’s due instead of the now common practice in the streaming world of ‘taking it without permission first, apologizing later’. This is what coming out as a Dalit really looks like,” she wrote.
Dutt however did recognize “filmmakers like Ghaywan who have revolutionized our cinematic language by showcasing unapologetic Dalits in Bollywood.” Her ask is “to be formally credited for ideas” that are hers. The “episode is stunning in its portrayal of a Dalit woman and her Buddhist inter-caste wedding,” she wrote. “It also unfortunately erases my contribution to my own ideas.”