Made in Heaven’s Tara is the perfect anti-hero

Made in Heaven’s Tara is the perfect anti-hero

She's fierce, she's a broken woman, she's a survivor, but most of all, she's a commentary on what we as a society need to unlearn.
04 Sep, 2023

Zoya Akhtar is one of the greatest storytellers of our generation — particularly when it comes to delving into the plight of the South Asian woman. We patiently waited four years for the second season of Made in Heaven and it did not disappoint. I’ve had so many conflicting feelings about the characters this season, but one thing that stood out was Tara Khanna’s embodiment of the perfect anti-hero.

Season one positioned Tara Khanna, played by Sobhita Dhulipala, as this beautiful, creative and talented woman who seemed to be ‘girl-bossing’ her way through the Indian wedding planning industry. She becomes fashion, every outfit is so intricately woven into a statement and her presence on screen is both breathtaking and astounding. But within her character arc, we see the cracks that begin to form. Season two does a great job of profoundly combing through her own family history and offsetting her as a resilient character who will go to every length to get her way. And while as the audience, we yearn for Tara’s redemption arc, we are given quite the opposite.

The series positions Tara as a survivor — she has one grip on reality as she traverses through picture-perfect weddings in equally perfect saris but the reality is darker. Behind a struggling woman who seems to want it all, is a woman who is confronted with distanced friendships, an isolation that continues to grow and a recognition of her lack of power. And maybe that’s why we find ourselves drawn towards her. Beneath the stone-cold exterior, there is a broken woman. But she rejects that narrative, and in fact, as the show continues, we see her weaponising that beauty she was once revered for.

And while on the surface, the series claims to be progressive, there is a clear desire for it to extend itself towards a more inclusive narrative. Personally, I felt like both the Muslim episodes could have delved a little deeper; it was a stereotypical depiction of a Muslim wedding — the second wife phenomenon and the reading of the nikkah while are completely relevant and valid also seem to just skip over the fact that there should be more to the story. Is it tokenism? Is it simply a device to shed light on the different communities in India?

I think as an audience, it is important for us to deconstruct the ways in which Tara’s character is problematic. Existing within what is already known to be a patriarchal society, some ideas need to be explained: yes, women need to work harder to be heard; yes, women need to level the playing field; yes, women need to use their resources to build themselves up because society often falls short. The show had already set the precedent of Tara’s past and while I still struggle to come to terms with the fact that she was the one who manipulated Adil (Jim Sarbh) and leaked the tape, we grew to empathise with her.

But with season two, that empathy churned itself into a form of pity and resentment. Her motivations behind tricking Adil and taking ownership of the house his late father built and his mother currently resided in left an incredibly sour taste in my mouth. Her character could not go back from that act. This made me reflect on the way women craft powerful positions in society — it is not an easy ladder to climb. And yet, Tara’s actions show us that she wants one thing, over and over again and that is power. A twisted form of self-assurance that pushes her towards the brink of being vilified by everyone in her circle.

Weaponising beauty

Tara’s outfits are a statement in itself: each piece is so carefully curated, a champagne gold sari wrapped to perfection — never showing any cracks, Sabyasachi presenting her as the insider she dreams to be, Malhotra clinging to redefine every mistake she made. She knows when and how to wear each outfit to curate her energy for the occasion. The way she carries a sari with grace a simple fusion of East meets West and the accessories all do the most.

And I applaud this display within the show because fashion has a way of telling a story that is often overlooked. She weaponises her beauty to excel within certain circles, her clothes are an armour wrapped so tightly around her that a simple mis-draping would be her downfall. If we think about the psychology of fashion, it is generally rooted in the environment one comes from. And yet, Tara dresses for the environment she yearns to inhabit. Shivani Yadav does a great job dissecting each outfit in this thread:

Maybe Tara’s character is a commentary on what we, as a society, need to unlearn — that beauty and power do not co-exist and that unexpected variables are consistently thrown towards women but the onus of how we solve them is the real story. That is how we reclaim our power. Tara may be the perfect anti-hero but she is also a complex, valid and sometimes even uncomfortable representation of desi society and how far we still have to go.