Amongst all the reasons why “Bridgerton” Season 2 is quite a sensation these days is the obvious: the Indian representation! Despite being set in Regency-era England, the Netflix original Bridgerton series presents racial (and cultural) inclusion without being colorblind.
The trend began with the black representation in season 1, with prominent characters like Simon Bassett, Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Marina Thompson. The second season of the series does the same by introducing Kate and Edwina Sharma to the fictitious world of the Bridgertons. However, is the cultural and historical representation in the season fictitious too? Let’s find out!
What Went Wrong
The Startling “Baap Re”
The introductory line of Kate Sharma in the season was during an unforeseen horse race between her and Anthony Bridgerton when she exclaimed, “Baap Re.” The Hindi phrase meaning “oh father” is a modern-day Indian vernacular used as an exclamation. The usage of the phrase in the mid-1800s is impossible, considering the style of the language spoken back then. Additionally, the use of such slang by a sophisticated woman like Kate Sharma is further unrealistic and unsettling.
The Ethnic Origins
Season 2 outlines the origins of the Sharma sisters from Bombay, who speak the Indian languages of Marathi and Hindustani. These details indicate that the family is of Marathi ethnicity, which counterfeits the quintessentially North Indian name “Sharma.” The sisters refer to their late father as “appa,” a word used in South Indian languages. Furthermore, Kate often calls her little sister “bon,” meaning “sister” in Bengali. To make matters worse, in a scene where Kate introduces her sister’s talents, she mispronounces the musical instrument “murali” as “maruli”!
Considering these details, it appears that the makers of the series were either desperate to integrate an element from every part of India or to create a fictitious ethnicity to the ignorance of western audiences. Nonetheless, the season failed to equip itself from the meticulous eyes of the Indian audience that takes its representation quite seriously!
The Standard Indian Tea
Amidst the several afternoon teas in the show, Kate points out her utter distaste for English tea. She is also seen relishing her Indian-style tea, spiced with cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, and milk; this captures the Indian love for the classic masala chai. While this certainly captures modern India’s love for tea, there is a glitch that the series overlooks.
The earliest British tea plantations in the Indian subcontinent occurred around the mid-1830s, and masala chai became a part of the culture much later. The introduction of tea in India does not align with the series’ timeline as the formal Regency era ended in 1820. It was impossible for Kate or any Indian of the time to have much knowledge of British tea, let alone to flaunt their version of it!
What Went Right
The Medical Practices
In Episode 5 of Season 2, Mr. Dorset rightly refers to Indian medical practices and how the western world has much to learn from them. India is the birthplace of surgery and has a rich history of Ayurveda (an alternative medicine system). Here is a place where the makers of the series have done a commendable job of representing the roots of the country.
The Haldi Ceremony
Right from the release of the Season 2 trailer, Indian viewers have been thrilled to spot the Haldi ceremony in the series. The haldi ceremony is a widely recognized pre-wedding tradition in most Indian weddings. It is an event when a ceremonial turmeric paste is applied to the bride’s skin as a beauty pack. In the series, Kate and Mary celebrate Edwina’s Haldi ceremony before her wedding with the Viscount on the classical rendition of “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.”
The Brass Accents And Jewelry
In the Bridgerton world, the Sharma family completely immerses themselves in British culture. Hence, their outfits too conform to the Regency era trends in London high society. Nonetheless, the makers feature elements of their Indian origins through some of their jewelry. The Sharma sisters are often seen wearing dainty jhumkas (bell-shaped earrings). Kate’s mother’s ethnic bangles make a significant mark in the story. In addition to the jewelry, the shiny brass accents and artifacts are noteworthy features that display Indian aesthetics.
The Bollywood-Esque Wedding Drama: (Major Spoilers)
The language, culture, and aesthetics are not the only Indian features of “Bridgerton” Season 2. The Bollywood-esque wedding drama is perhaps the most noticeable and relatable feature that takes a viewer’s mind to a classic Shahrukh Khan film. During Edwina’s wedding, Kate and Anthony share passionate looks with each other. Kate anxiously fidgets with her bangles, which leads to a dramatic drop, interrupting the vows.
Such dramatic cinematography was common to Bollywood films of the early 2000s. The classic bangle-drop was a popular touchstone, succeeding the fleeing bride, which also happens later in the scene. The Bollywood effect is so prominent that you might catch yourself playing the “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” soundtrack in your mind! Nonetheless, these dramatic features are incredibly entertaining and great for amusing the Indian audience.
The Bridgerton series is truly applaudable for presenting a delightful story, direction, acting, and aesthetics while incorporating several colors and ethnicities. The cultural representation in Season 2 came across as being instructed by non-resident Indians, which painted a poorly researched picture. It is understandable why the makers did not touch upon British colonialism in India during the time period to maintain the series’ “fairytale” tone without getting too real! However, it would have been interesting if the series had managed to touch upon the topic, as it had subtly done so on black discrimination in season one. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see Shondaland’s efforts to incorporate Indian representation and how they imagine the culture during the Regency era. All things aside, “Bridgerton” Season Two is definitely a visual delight and a must-watch!