Watching Netflix and Conde Nast’s docuseries, “The Big Day” directed by Ashish Sawhay, Akriti Mehta and Faraz Arif Ansar has convinced me of one thing — to the world, India is either the world of the Slumdog Millionaire — poor, downtrodden and corrupt — or it is the land of the uber rich — ostentatious and extravagant. There is nothing in between.
The real is conveniently sacrificed at the altar of what sells.
“The Big Day” reeks of one thing and one thing alone — Privilege. Six couples — Divya and Aman, Nikhita and Mukund, Nitin and Ami, Pallavi and Rajat, Aditya and Gayeti, and Tyrone and Daniel, over three episodes share their wedding journey with us, taking us through the wedding planning and all the fluff that goes with it — lush, opulent weddings with custom made decors, lavish Victorian parties and fantastical Alice in Wonderland themes with flowers flown in from all over, indulgent Faberge-style eggs, exorbitant performers and foreign guests who remark, “I feel like I’ve inhabited a Bollywood movie in real life.”
It is a wedding you and I can only dream of. Probably not even that.
Even as I began watching this otherwise strikingly cinematic fare, the Karan Johar movie sets playing out live series, much like how I felt with “The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives” or the infamous “Indian Matchmaking,” I couldn’t help but wonder how far from reality this really is.
How does this miniscule percentage of privileged people — Benarasi and Lucknawi royals, NRI billionaires represent the average Indian?
The series was probably conceptualized with the positive intent of showcasing how marriage is evolving with the millennials, especially women taking control of their lives and reimagining dispensable customs and ceremonies that they do not believe in.
There is talk of doing away with rituals like the kanyadaan, as women are not objects to be passed from one family to the other, keeping only those vows which profess equality between husband and wife, children given the freedom to choose which religion they want to adhere to, or the desire to have a female priestess in a very male dominated set up, for instance. A welcome change, indeed.
The simmering tension between the two ideologies, especially when originating from the bride — a girl and the friction, furtively depicted, that follows between the two families is relatable. Thank God, something is.
There are attempts to talk about inter-religious weddings. But, with no substantial discussion around it, it remains a moot point. I wish they had delved deeper into it, given the turmoil around it in recent times.
“The Big Day,” however, gets completely lost in translation to the canvas of real India. Here are people of inordinate wealth, with resources and ability to question the status quo.
What is the story and struggle of the average Indian bride fighting for what she wants for herself? We will never know unless story tellers decide to tell her story.
Inadvertently or not, some of the millennial couples in their quest to hold the baton to their wedding with the ‘this is my wedding, it will happen the way I want it’ attitude come across as individualistic, control freaks and uncompromising.
The bride who refuses to let her visibly upset mother do anything for her wedding is taking away from her a mother’s desire to plan her daughter’s wedding. The other bride who wants to control the very clothes her siblings wear and the songs they dance on is taking their share of fun from them.
Where does one draw the line?
The story of the same sex couple touches the right nerve, talking about their struggles, challenges and their sentiments truly come across. That’s a new age Indian story worth talking about.
Overall, the series does not fail you in its grandeur and it does rake up some very pertinent questions, making women decision makers and putting them in a position of power.
But it disappoints in not making that story the story of real people — you and me.
Nupur Bhatnagar is a lawyer by training, an entrepreneur and a storyteller. She is rationalist and an art enthusiast who is fascinated by history. She loves to read and watch historical dramas — sometimes even sees herself in them. Nupur lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.