Big fat Indian wedding sells and sells big time; even the shows, documentaries around it generate enough interests for the makers to mint money through such shows. And perhaps that was the driving factor for a streaming service like Netflix to come up with something as caricaturish, stereotypical, misogynistic show as the ‘Indian matchmaking’ on its platform! My first reaction after watching one episode of Indian Matchmaking was of a huge disbelief, disappointment and anger! If at all, it manages to portray Indians in a very poor light, residents and non-residents alike and it does so, even without showing the actual issues plaguing this whole Indian matchmaking affair!
Circumvents the real issues and doesn’t represent the diverse cross section of people.
It made me cringe to see the way things around arranged marriages have been depicted in this ‘reality show cum documentary’. I found the show to be rather utopian. It was neither here nor here. It does not represent the diverse cross section of Indian people, restricting itself only to the upper middle-class people, that too of only business class of Maharashtra and some Indian Americans. It does not touch upon the topic of dowry either, that accompany many traditional arranged marriages in India. It seems that the makers just wanted to touch the glittery surface- circumventing the real issues they just try to keep it simple, shiny, in the garb of documentary, to catch the attention of Asian viewers, lest it turns into a ‘real documentary’ which then would not attract as many viewers!! The choice of candidates and the places of shooting have also been kept very upmarket to maintain the gloss, to keep it visually rich. For the makers of 'Indian matchmaking' , lower middle class is probably too busy making the ends meet to indulge in matchmaking !! They wanted to keep everything feather light while invoking nostalgia in the viewers, especially the NRI viewers and that perhaps remains its USP. A girl and a boy going on a ‘forced date’ arranged by a middle-aged matchmaker, Sima Taparia; OMG! How patriarchal her thoughts are! Quick to judge, she blatantly tells a divorcee that her chances of finding a suitable boy is slim and she should be ready to compromise more than the boy! And mind you, all this ‘divorcee’ seeking a match thing is based in USA and not India (how convenient!)! There is another matchmaker who advices the girl (Ankita) that as a woman, she should be ready and willing to contribute more in a marriage! Now, what were they trying to show! This reality show cum documentary is caught between the desire to be taken seriously by portraying the discriminatory nature of the Indian matchmaking and to appeal to the taste of the masses. Sadly, it does neither.
Doesn’t portray the changing skyline of the Indian matchmaking/arranged marriages of the modern India
Smriti Mundhra, the NRI producer of the series, tries to show something that she is far disconnected from, may be encouraged by the success of her other show. I have not watched that, and I do not intend to either, definitely not after assaulting my senses with the Indian Matchmaking. She seems to be completely unaware of the social and economic changes that have happened in the last decade or so in this country.
In an India where arranged marriage is still very much a part of the culture with a lot of troubling facets lurking underneath, it’s equally true that a lot of young, educated and independent middle class people are now opting for love cum arranged marriages and many a time they also go for live-in first, in order to understand each other and are now much accepted reality today than it ever had been. In most cases with parental approval. ‘Slim and fair’ bias is still there but somewhat blurred with compatibility, education and career taking precedence over other attributes. Being slim and fair is no longer the ticket to finding a good match while dusky and career-oriented girl is having it easier than she did previously. At this juncture I am reminded of Akshay, one of the bachelors of the show, almost deciding against a girl, ( by the end of the series he is shown to have settled for the this girl, but once the series went on air, they called it off) who wants to pursue a career after marriage. He rather wants someone who stays home like his mom to look after the children! The truth can’t be farther than this even though there may be exceptions. But showcasing such a case portrays it as a ‘established and general rule’ and is only going to add on to the already discriminatory image of the Indian arranged marriage scenario. During my stay in Jaipur (society there is considered to be conventional), I chanced upon meeting a family who were looking for a suitable girl for their son. The mother was quite sure of the kind of the girl she wanted for her son, “arre gori chitti lekar kya karna karna hai, aise bhi kaun sa roop hamesha ke liye hota hai! It’s better to get a career girl,” she was being practical. Off late, this has become the most important attribute. In fact, this has given a huge fillip to the girl education and progress towards career.
Contrary to what’s shown, Indian people are much more accommodating now.
I have seen a Brahmin girl from Bihar (considered to be a backward state) breaking all moulds and marrying a Christian boy of Maharashtra, with the blessings of both sides of the families and religion, well, they celebrate all the fun and happy festivals of both sides. Having met him in her engineering college, Ketaki Mishra had found Marcelino much more compatible than the boys of her caste and region. It works for them beautifully. He is a sailor and she is a finance consultant. I also had the pleasure of witnessing the marriage of a divorced girl (again from Bihar) who is now happily settled with her husband.
Having made the profiles of my family members on matrimonial sites (mostly girls) with the box ‘caste- doesn’t matter’ ticked, I am sure of what I am talking about. The bottom line is India has moved ahead and people are much more appreciative of good education, career and compatibility than of anything else. While looking a for a match in ones own ‘system’ is not completely out, the tolerance towards inter caste, interstate marriages is much higher. Sadly, none of that was featured in the ‘Indian Matchmaking’.
Besides, while the rest of India has started opening towards the same sex union as well, no such case was taken up in the series. Since I have not had any personal connect with people from LGBT community, I do not have a story to share here but I would have loved to see one in the series.
Coming to the NRIs, at least whom I know, and they make a sizeable number; lot of the them have found true partner in the person of other religion and sometime even from another continent.
She being the only sparkling gem in this entire circus, surely deserves a heading of her own! Ankita is the only one in this otherwise drab series who represents the aspirational and confident India of today. She chooses career over getting married to some loser, just because ‘one should get married at the right age and be ready to give in more’! And proving what I have tried to bring out through this write up, Ankita has emerged as the favourite of the viewers. She makes viewers believe what they themselves wanted to believe in. Wish the makers had chosen more such cases.
Not worth your attention and time
All in all, this series felt like a sham- distasteful and poorly conceptualised. It rather felt like watching a society moving backwards, what with a mother feeling stressed when her son is STILL UNMARRIED at the RIPE age of 25!!!!!!!! How regressive! And no, they are not living in some remote village of India. The guy is Boston educated and helps run his family business. Indians are portrayed as a group living under the rock, while the match maker goes on to consult the pandits about the horoscope! I felt angry, because this show had the tag of ‘documentary’. It lends it a ‘credibility’ even when there is none!
Copyright © Aradhana Mishra
Photocredit,- @Aradhanamishra #Flipboard