Why Bridgerton’s Haldi Scene Makes Me Cry

Bridgerton, the scorching regency rampage, returned for its second season this week and it’s still as addictive and outrageous as ever. The first season of the Shondaland production has already made waves for its incorporation of people of color into a genre traditionally dominated by white faces, and the star of lead actor Regé-Jean Page has seen a stratospheric rise. The second season embraces this diversity wholeheartedly again with the introduction of the Sharma family: Kate (Simone Ashley), younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandan) and mother Mary (Shelley Conn). Known to readers of Julia Quinn’s books as Sheffields, the Netflix show reimagines debutantes as ton newcomers from India, with Kate determined to find Edwina a suitable husband.

The new episodes double down on the romance, scum and scandal that made the first season so popular, but the Sharmas bring a distinctly new flavor in the form of an Indian culture guideline into the plot. And thankfully, the portrayal goes beyond a paid lip service in the form of the cast and the characters’ last names. A tribute is paid to Indian culture throughout the season, and perhaps nowhere more noticeably than in a scene preceding Edwina and Anthony’s wedding in episode six. The day before the wedding ceremony, the Sharma women gather and spread turmeric paste on Edwina’s arms and face. The ritual, called the Haldi ceremony (Haldi means turmeric in Hindi), is a traditional Indian pre-wedding event believed to bestow blessings on the married couple. Indian viewers might also understand that the string music playing in the background of the stage is an orchestral rendition of “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham,” a hugely popular Bollywood song from the 2001 film of the same name, a surprising inclusion in a soundtrack original including the other covers taken from artists such as Harry Styles and Madonna.

The Haldi scene in this season of Bridgerton.


Bridgerton was not a conventional Regency show to begin with, already imbued with a degree of diversity and modernity not usually associated with Western period pieces, but for me, having grown up with parallel, separate but equal regimes , Bollywood and BBC shows, the collision of the two was remarkable. The idea that it is “historically accurate” to exclude people of color from these shows is as inaccurate as it is pervasive. Even when people of color are included in these stories, there is rarely an effort to give them narratives that don’t revolve around oppression or submission. How refreshing is it Bridgerton is that its origins in romance novels mean it lives happily in the realm of fantasy and escapism, and the Sharma sisters are allowed to revel in that center. Edwina is the Diamond of the season; Kate is the romantic heroine at the heart of the story. And their history is not made at the expense of their Indian heritage, but in the service of it.

The Haldi scene is an unusually small moment compared to how Indian weddings are typically depicted in Western media, when shown at all. It’s just the three women, performing a ritual in a foreign land where the sum total of their cultural grounding is each other. The UK is home to over 1.4 million Indian immigrants, including my own family, and the emotion of the moment resonates. The importance of family runs deep in Indian culture, and our weddings are usually the greatest manifestations of this. There is no ceremony that does not revolve around celebration and family blessings. For the Indian diaspora, therefore, the separation from our community can be particularly acute. Watching the Sharma women perform the Haldi ceremony, leaning even more on each other for even more support for being so isolated in the heart of London, was a powerful performance. It was more than just seeing a ceremony I know well unfold on screen; it was watching a lived experience that lingers largely but often unspoken under the skin of the Indian diaspora. It was as recognizable as it was exciting.

bridgerton the sharma sisters
The Sharma Sisters: Kate, played by Simone Ashley and Edwina, played by Charithra Chandran.


And it’s hard to underestimate how excited I was. Growing up in the UK, I was constantly immersed in adaptations of Jane Austen and British literature. The trappings of Regency shows have been as stable and comfortable a source of escape for me as Cinderella Castle or Hogwarts. Period dramas have a unique appeal for fans; there is a romantic charm in the intricacies of afternoon tea or the gossip of the royal courts. All these motifs are so distinct, so integrated into the DNA of the genre, that it didn’t even occur to me to look for any reflection of myself in them. The colorful rows of my mother’s bracelets had no place against empire-waist dresses in pastel palettes. When the Lizzies and the Darcies or the Emmas and the Knightleys of the world were married, I would never see the saris and the marigolds and the musicians and, yes, the Haldis, that weddings meant to me.

Except now I have. In the larger frame of the season, the Haldi ceremony is just one scene, a sweet precursor to a wedding that, much to the audience’s relief — spoiler alert — doesn’t actually happen. But inside, Edwina calls Kate Have I got, the same as my younger sister used to call me, and Kate dons a pair of her mother’s traditional bracelets. A Bollywood song familiar to almost all Diaspora Indians blares in the background. Three Indian women, a small family in a foreign land, celebrate their culture on a stage as big and beautiful as Bridgerton. And for the first time, I feel like the romance and fantasy of a genre I’ve loved for years is mine, for now.

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