Bi-product of Shaadi.com and Love is Blind, Indian Matchmaking leaves no stone unturned in depicting the sad-but-true condition and stereotypical approach of arranged matrimony.
Though it might be the perfect ‘cringe show’ one would binge watch on yet another boring quarantine night, Netflix’s recent original, Indian Matchmaking has left its viewers extremely bewildered. Succumbing to the trend, I too found myself hate-watching the show, but somewhere confused whether I was infuriated about the misogynistic and objectifying content, or simply at denial about the fact that these regressive methods of matchmaking are more than prevalent in our society today.
Introducing herself as ‘I’m Sima, from Mumbai’ (the line printed on a t-shirt would be a bestseller btw), the host of the show Sima Taparia plays the role of any interfering and bored aunt at an Indian wedding – scouting around and looking for the perfect match for you, just because ‘umar aa gayi hai’ (you’re of age now).
Matching biodatas on the sole basis of the similarities they offer, she claims that matches are ‘made in heaven’ and she is the godsent individual to make their marital bonds a success. Being a traditional matchmaker with a clientele consisting of the who’s who Indian residents and NRI’s, Taparia offers a variety of ‘options’ from her wide database on the basis of her client’s ‘preferences’ while completely eradicating the connection and bond between the two potential individuals. She is often seen giving unsolicited advice, making marriage completely about the money and families involved, and little about the people actually entering into the arrangement.
“Obviously, marriage has nothing to do with the bride and groom, or their love (if there is any). It is only families and their ‘millions of dollars at stake!”Sima Taparia
While my laughs were nothing but coping mechanisms to go through with it, I noticed the stark difference between the cringe-worthy content on the widescreen vs. the unfazed and unfortunate reality of the situation. While the show comes across as classist and problematic on various levels, it does to a large extent (though glorifying and normalizing it) depict the inherent patriarchal stereotype that comes with aristocratic and high profile arranged marriages in our subcontinent.
“My Mom is literally what I want to be looking at in a wife.”Akshay, one of the protagonists
While the eight-part series aims to cover a couple of couples (pun intended) at a time, not many of the stories conclude, and you may find people vanishing from the context quite abruptly. The most prominent character would definitely be Akshay, a 25-year-old mama’s boy who I quite pitied early on in the show. Showcased as a prime candidate of one who is pressured into settling down by an extremely overprotective and nosy mother, Akshay is openly blamed to be the sole cause of her blood pressure rising daily due to his inability to commit. I really wonder what would happen if she ever met Aparna!
Rejecting proposals based on the pictures alone, Akshay took the cake when he claimed that he wanted his future partner to do the same things in the house that his mother did. Eventually getting engaged to Radhika, a girl pursuing her CA, he was initially stunned by the fact that she wanted to work independently. His immediate reaction to her aspirations made me question the mentality of men all around and jump as far as I could from the general concept of marriage altogether. He stated “if she works, who will look after the kid and all, the house.”
Chastising women based on the number of shoes they own or even being heavily independent and career-oriented, the matchmaker is seen as constantly dismissing female desires and telling them to ‘adjust’, ‘compromise’ or even change. The male characters are however hardly ever told to bring their nose back to the ground of reality and accept their own mistakes.
Sima Taparia from Mumbai: pic.twitter.com/53VRuD9sL2
— Areen Deshmukh (@areen_skd) July 20, 2020
Aparna, a 34-year-old lawyer from Houston is judged about the fact that she rejected men on the first meeting itself. She is constantly convinced to bring her standards down and stop being picky about finding her match, while Pradhyuman, a 30-year-old finicky ‘pretty, rich, and single’ Mumbai boy is hardly ever taken offence at, despite him rejecting over 150 matches just based on their pictures. Sima Mami is shown as completely flustered when it came to finding a match for him. After going to a life coach and establishing that appearance is superficial, suddenly, more than a hundred rishtas later, he had to jump up and say yes to meeting a model, right? “Bas yahi toh chahiye tha.”
From Aparna’s 55-minute date rule, meeting men at a time where they have exactly an hour before the restaurant closes to her “What are you doing in your life that you have to relax for more than 3 days?” Aparna was truly a human source of quality meme content throughout the show. I totally admire her for being one of the most successful, driven and confident women around, but seriously, was there ANYTHING that she didn’t hate? She’d definitely be a great standup comic, but well, she hates humour too.
Though the expectations from their ideal life partners are highly convoluted, the potential brides/grooms find themselves to be relentlessly manipulated by their families’ presuppositions. From celestial paths, to face reading and even astronomy, the matchmaker leaves no stone unturned in setting up the matches. Squealing out of disdain and astonishment, I had to time again remind myself that it is not Sima who’s the villain in the situation, but this is nothing but the harsh truth behind the mentality of most of our population.
Her acquaintance Geeta, a Delhi based modern matchmaker who was brought into the picture to help her find a suitable partner for Ankita, truly went one notch higher than Sima’s game; because apparently “girls have to give more emotionally’. Yes, Geeta, a woman should really drop everything and follow her husband blindly, you’re truly progressive.
Each episode starts with snippets of conversations with happily married couples who’ve been together for decades, telling us tales about how they first met and endorsing the concept of arranged marriages altogether. Making it the cutest part of the series, it somehow in a way conveyed that even though the whole system shown on the show comes across as extremely problematic, the process has evolved over the years. One can only hope that families open their eyes seeing the show and be a little less harsh when it comes to factors like ‘thin, fair, lovely and EDUCATED.’
Though Indian Matchmaking is engaging in the way it brings forward the typical clichés in the marriage set-up in India, where your everyday ‘makhanas’ become ‘dragon foxnuts’, this isn’t a revelation to the ordinary Indian. It takes turns to make you laugh, frustrate you beyond your wits and sometimes even makes you want to break the screen in front of you.
Just remember that Sima Aunty is not the sole culprit, it’s our patriarchal society and vexed conservatism because ‘people are scared to marry women who are lawyers’. Try to understand.
You’ll either enjoy it to the core, or Smriti Mundhra’s brainchild will actually give you a distressing reminder that though to say it’s the twenty-first century and everything has evolved, some sects of this culture of arranged marriages in the decades of its existence remain where they were initially: infuriating and problematic.
Feature Image Credits: Firstpost