Matrix of arranged marriage

Matrix of arranged marriage

Stills from Indian Matchmaking

Film: Indian Matchmaking

Director: Smriti Mundhra

Cast: Sima Taparia, Aparna Shewakramani, Jay Wadhwani, Pradhyuman Maloo, Nadia Christina Jagessar

Nonika Singh

If you scoff at the very thought of arranged marriage and what all it entails, and consider it to be the most regressive concept on the earth; read no further. But if you deem marriage is an important institution as well a significant milestone in one’s life and anyone, even matchmakers, can play Cupid, Netflix’s latest reality show cum docu-series Indian Matchmaking will appeal to you.

Moreover, you will be able to relate to this bunch of young men and women on the lookout for life partners. Marriage; who in India doesn’t know is a big deal and even bigger deal is how to find the right partner. So women like Sima aunty, become as important as tying the nuptial knot. The series fleshes out a microcosm of Indian society, the upper class, both in India and foreign lands where despite dating apps and websites, Sima aunty has both rationale and reason to exist. Of course, she exists in real life as exactly what is shown in the series as a high profile matchmaker Sima Taparia.

Her clients too are real, sieved out of a list of 500. Through her we meet a handsome jewellery designer in Mumbai, an ambitious woman lawyer in US, a Guyanese Indian origin woman and later in the series a divorcee, all looking for love and a life partner. The common thread is Sima aunty, who frets a bit, as we all want everything. Whatever may be her thoughts on marriage, the all too knowing and familiar statement ‘one has to compromise’, you warm up to her rather agreeable presence. Despite her sanctimonious and judgemental attitude towards the fair sex, she has an air of someone who means well.

Real tone & tenor

Bit by bit, we are taken from one possible matrimonial alliance to another in India and the US. Often the conversation of the potential bride and groom runs the same distance, even perpetuates stereotypes, yet the show keeps you engaged with its real tone and tenor. What they say, how they relate to each other has a ring of honesty and earnestness. Be it the awkward looking mama’s boy Akshay or confident in his skin designer Pradyuman who cooks like a pro and rejects girls by the dozens, it’s hard to detest them.

Even the mother who has no compunction in echoing ‘my house my rules, daughter-in-law has to adjust’ has a certain degree of familiarity. All of it is so believable… even when people in question are rather pretentious, even though parts of the reality show could be scripted, you can’t take away that they are flesh and blood. Some like Vyasar are all heart too.

Socially incorrect?

The show’s heart may not be in the right place. Socially incorrect, it is already being called out for being classist and colourist. You simply can’t ignore the fact that all this is for real. In India arranged remains the official ‘unofficial’ way of finding partners and the system has its own set of rules and a check list, which may not work in favour of empowered women. The series does make an attempt to bring you the modern face of this traditional custom. Sure much remains the same, the matching of horoscopes for instance. But imagine a matchmaker arranging a life coach for its clients.

Indian Matchmaking may not be as addictive as say a crime thriller. Yet there is no way you can stop watching it midway. Vyasar may say “I don’t know how to create romance,” the series does manage to capture the drama of arranged marriage. Precisely, why the series is going viral and eliciting memes, not at all flattering. But whether you had an arranged marriage or love, whether you are checking out prospective grooms or brides, it will resonate for a host of reasons. Love it or hate it, there is no denying it mirrors the reality of matchmaking. The fact that none of the matches, even Akshay who gets engaged in the show, are together too is an un-escapable reality of young India and Indians. Wish the series had put this out as a disclaimer.