There’s arguably no greater marketing campaign these days than having your own Netflix series. That’s essentially what The Big Day is. It calls itself a ‘docu-series’ about India’s wedding industry, but it’s merely one giant self-congratulatory promotional exercise split into episodes.
Each episode follows the planning and preparation leading up to the big (or in this case massive) days of two sets of couples. Footage of their various wedding functions is intercut with their friends, family and most importantly their wedding planners giving us a sense of the couple’s love story.
At its best, The Big Day is wedding porn – ongoing and repetitive flashes of luxury and decadence – with stray moments of heart. At its worst, it’s a nauseating, soulless marketing campaign aimed at glorifying India’s wedding industry and promoting specific ‘luxury wedding planners’ (actual designation).
The first of the three episodes released so far (with three more to follow soon) is impressively hollow. It follows college sweethearts Aman and Divya, who are getting married at a fort in Jaipur, and Indian-American couple Mukund and Nikita who are looking to have the big Indian wedding. There’s barely any structure to the proceedings. It’s an ongoing slide show of their wealth and excessive lifestyle. This includes, but isn’t limited to, fire dancers, flowers flown in from China, and my personal favourite – a custom made 8-foot tall Buddha statue to put by the bar to give them that ‘Buddha bar feeling’. In short, it feels like a bunch of rich people paid to have their well-produced wedding video on Netflix.
There’s no effort or intention here to offer any insight or commentary on grand Indian weddings. There’s no scope for any perspective that doesn’t glorify the industry and promote the tireless efforts of the planners. They never, for example, discuss how much these weddings cost. Of all the ‘perspectives’ we get from the different people working on a specific wedding, the makers are only interested in talking to the wedding planners. They never talk to the smaller vendors and the hundreds of regular people who make these magical days come together.
Episodes two and three are comparatively stronger in that they actually have something to say. The focus shifts to the couples and their stories, putting the personal over the flashy. The second episode introduces us to Pallavi, who is marrying high-school sweetheart Rajat. She’s a headstrong woman who is labelled a ‘bridezilla’ because she questions the misogynistic traditions and rituals a bride has to endure. While the episode doesn’t delve into this nearly as much as it should, we get fleeting indications of the tensions between her and her in-laws to be, as she refuses to be a part of any ritual that isn’t rooted in equality. You feel for her and it makes you wonder about the countless brides who are made to compromise their ideals to be degraded on their big day.
Episode three follows the wedding of celebrity make-up artist Daniel Bauer and his partner Tyrone Braganza. Theirs is the most affecting tale of the series for how it explores the countless obstacles and rejections a gay couple has to go through to be married.
In the end, over these three episodes, what The Big Day loses in insight, it barely makes up for in emotion. You come away having learnt close to nothing new about Indian marriages. Chances are the show will be a success. In this case, that won’t be determined by reviews or even views, but by the number of enquiries these wedding planners and venues will get thanks to this show.