Collection 1, Episode 1 of The Big Day (2021).
On Valentine’s Day two years ago, Netflix dropped its long awaited docu-series ‘The Big Day’, featuring 6 couples and their flamboyant, extravagant Big Fat Indian weddings. This series wants for nothing in aesthetic: The colour-laden scenery, artistic camera angles, and sentimental score are dazzling. The general aesthetic and execution of the show are undeniably beautiful, and the amalgamation of indie music and classic Bollywood show tunes strewn throughout the show catches the ear and is definitely well-curated.
In this piece, we are focussing on the very first couple to be introduced – Divya and Aman, who disagreed adorably about how long they’ve been together, and hosted, in my opinion, the best shaadi of the show’s first season. It stands out among all these larger-than-life, fairy-tale-meets-big-top festivities, for its thoughtful and detailed design created using a vehemently ‘vocal for local’ approach. After speeding through all the (admittedly interesting) wedding preparations, they get to the Sangeet ceremony, featuring a beautiful song by Chandigarh-based indie-folk duo, Hari & Sukhmani and South Australian collective, The Coconut Kids.
‘Baagay’, a soulful acoustic track based around traditional Punjabi vocals and supported by a simple but moving Ukulele hook, sets the scene for Divya and Aman’s Sangeet ceremony. This soulful track perfectly complements the montage of adorable shots of the family laughing, dancing and celebrating. It’s an apt choice for many reasons, especially the song’s raw earnestness which very much reflects what the couple wanted from their wedding celebration; and the lyrics that urge the singer’s lover to meet them in the garden, creating a beautiful setting for this garden party Sangeet celebration. Also featured in the montage are Hari & Sukhmani themselves, hinting that they performed this song, and more, for the couple and their guests at the celebration!
Hari & Sukhmani have been touring nationally & internationally since December of 2008, performing in Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab, Rajasthan, Australia, New Zealand and more! The two combine eclecticism with a curiously contemporary take on traditional folk songs from Punjab. Their sounds are a blend of folk music fused with ambient electronica, resonating with a sincere and cultured touch. Hari Singh is a producer and audio engineer, and Sukhmani Malik is a trained Hindustani classical vocalist, dense with character and power. For this song, they collaborated with The Coconut Kids, a Ukulele-centric collective with an earnest, playful and direct blend of indie folk with direct melodies and witty lyricism.
I would be amiss to talk about the music in this series without mentioning the impressive lineup of sync licensed music featured in ‘The Big Day’. The first episode itself brings us 7 or 8 diverse songs, from classic bollywood tracks like ‘Dhoom Again’ and ‘Shava Shava’, to indie bops like ‘Wagairah Wagairah’ and ‘Zalim Alien’ by Ankur Tewari & The Ghalat Family. I also thoroughly enjoyed the opening song ‘Like I Love You’ by Mumbai-based artist Clayton Hogermeer, a slow, I-want-this-to-play-for-my-first-dance melody.
Though ‘The Big Day’ nails many aspects of representing Indian weddings, the show boils down to showcasing excessive indulgence that, in truth, only a handful of super-rich Indian families can afford. It had the platform and certainly the potential to make a statement on upper caste, lightskin, and wealthy privilege in India, but it turned away, becoming just another form of media that ignores social injustice on the subcontinent. Despite all that though, if you’re in the mood for a simple docu-series following the more extravagant and flamboyant displays of Indian-themed wealth, you’re sure to have a good time.
This show is available for viewing on Netflix