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Friday, April 16, 2021

Review: The Big Day (Netflix)

In the year of lockdowns, this guilty pleasure watch reminds us of better times.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Reality shows about weddings are nothing new if you consider the success of productions like Say Yes to the Dress, Say I Do, and Love is Blind. Combine that with Netflix’s new focus on India-centric content like Indian Matchmaking and Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, and you’re likely to have a hit show on your hands. At least, you should on paper. Instead, The Big Day falls somewhere between a guilty pleasure binge-watch and an opulent, cringe-worthy display of wealth.

AT A GLANCE

  • Starring: Nikhita Iyar, Mukund Chillakanti, Ami Pandya, Nithin Zacharias, Pallavi Bishnoi, Rajat Swarup, Aditya Wadhwani, Gayeti Singh, Aman Kapur, Divya Khandelwal, Daniel Bauer, Tyrone Braganza
  • Produced by: Conde Nast
  • Rating: * * *

Spanning three episodes, The Big Day features six happy couples in the weeks ahead of their wedding. Although they all hail from affluent families who can, after all, afford these glamorous weddings, the couples are quite diverse. We see non-resident Indians fly back to reconnect with their roots, high school sweethearts who finally seal the deal, and perhaps most noteworthy, Netflix India’s first same-sex wedding.

After the immense popularity of Indian Matchmaking last year, it’s great to see this other side of India where brides have agency and opinion in their own special day. In this regard, spunky ‘bridezilla’ Pallavi Bishnoi emerges as a fan favourite. As the second episode wraps up, her reflective voiceover proves to be one of the most poignant moments in the show: “Weddings are not the biggest day of your life. Start celebrating other things… Your life is not before-wedding, wedding, and after-wedding. Your life is whatever you want it to be.”

ami and nithin in the big day
Ami Pandya and Nithin Zacharias. Source: Twitter

LISTEN ALSO: Don’t Miss The Link Episode 9: What do young Indians want from love?

In fact, whether you grow to like them or not, all the brides in The Big Day ruffle feathers in the best way possible. They shirk off patriarchal traditions like kanyadaan. They turn the baarat (traditionally by the groom’s side) into a party for both sides. They even look into hiring a pandita (female priestess) who can relate to the contemporary Indian woman. For many young women who still grapple with the idea of their big fat Indian wedding, The Big Day provides a glimpse of what non-traditional can look like.

Still, ‘big fat Indian wedding’ is the best term to describe what you see onscreen. No expenses have been spared by any of the couples. Some of the spectacle might even have you recalling Bridgerton with its gorgeous gowns, larger-than-life decorations, and lavish ceremonies. True to the high production value we now expect from this streaming giant, Netflix’s The Big Day is one good looking show.

 

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And that’s perhaps where the pros end for although stylised as The BIG Day, it turns out somewhat… ordinary. It seems geared towards an audience outside India, to introduce them to “India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry” but it assumes a lot of knowledge on their part. Why does the couple walk around a fire seven times? What, pray tell, is the significance of the haldi ceremony? Without an Indian person sitting beside them to provide context, would audiences outside India be able to keep up?

Moreover, the docuseries touches upon the large carbon footprint and waste in the wedding industry when they highlight the wedding of Divya Khandelwal and Aman Kapur, who set a fascinating standard by sourcing everything locally for their Bishangarh wedding. Then they simply breeze past it to more decadent affairs.

In the year of lockdowns and social distancing, The Big Day was entertaining because it reminded us of better times. The outfits, the glamour, and the Bollywood dance numbers (including a cameo by Katrina Kaif, surprisingly enough) would be enough to make most viewers wish for a wedding invite of their own.

The Big Day is, quite simply, a hit or a miss. In this case, it’s good enough for a binge-watch… probably not a re-watch, though.


 

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Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer, editor, and content creator based in Sydney. In 2020, she was nominated for Young Journalist of the Year (Premier's Multicultural Media Awards)

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