Indian Matchmaking holds up a mirror

As some cringe, most binge and the ‘woke’ generation calls it patriarchal, let’s look at why we really just love Netflix’s new show, ‘Indian Matchmaking’

Updated - July 29, 2020 01:35 pm IST

Published - July 28, 2020 07:35 pm IST

Let us begin by admitting that Indian Matchmaking is a brilliant show. Like all the best series — Downton Abbey , Game of Thrones , Howto Get Away with Murder — it is absolutely binge-worthy. But unlike them, it relies on something much more powerful than a good, solid story. It is imminently, pervasively real. There isn’t a single Indian alive, within the country or elsewhere, whose life isn’t touched by an arranged match somewhere in their family tree. The showmakers recognised this, and then linked the series with the other most powerful thing that has become essential to our social and online existence today: anger.

As ‘woke’ millennials ranted about how the show ‘glorified’ an outdated, patriarchal tradition that has no place in ‘today’s world’ (whatever that means), more and more people across India and the globe tuned in to Sima Taparia-from-Mumbai’s iconic, cringe-inducing pronouncements on girls who needed to ‘adjust’ and be ‘flexible’. Everyone wanted to slap Pradhyuman for being a flake, Akshay for not being one, and both for rejecting scores of girls. We all wanted Aparna to lighten up, Nadia to sober down, and both to get suitable guys who understood them. It was glorious.

Playing the inclusive card

Apart from these obviously astute aspects of the making of this show, it accomplished something else no other series has done so seamlessly: it was ‘inclusive’. So much so that it actually didn’t feel forced. Let me count the ways: we have a less-than-perfect cynical lawyer in her early 30s; a nomadic, multi-ethnic 20-something into Bollywood dancing; an intelligent, funny, dark-skinned, balding school counsellor; a narcissistic and hugely privileged amateur cook and for-show-playboy; and a browbeaten mama’s boy who is also burdened with the birth of his elder brother’s baby. The best screenwriters in the world have not been able to show this range, variety and mix of Indians in one storyline. Ever. Even GoT had to pick its characters from seven imaginary kingdoms.

But the main surprise from a show titled Indian Matchmaking came in the application of the process of matchmaking itself. Instead of being shown as the norm for ready-to-marry Indians, the idea of the arranged marriage was treated in individual contexts. This came home to me during Vyasar’s monologue, where he spoke about having dated previously and has now decided to opt for this route to find a life partner. The same thing applied to Ankita. And throughout the show, it was the various aspects of matchmaking and how it operates today, now, here, that we saw unfolding episode after episode. It succeeded because it gave us the freedom to judge and react to — and in many cases, to relate to — the situations the characters found themselves in.

Pictured: Vyasar (L), Rashi Gupta (R)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix
Season 1, Episode 6 'It’s High Time'

Pictured: Vyasar (L), Rashi Gupta (R) Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix Season 1, Episode 6 "It’s High Time"

Words that matter

The best part? We weren’t given any, absolutely not a single atom of morality. There was no lesson to be learned at the end. It was the perfect documentary of a custom that has prevailed and adapted itself over the centuries to suit the needs of those who use it for the variety of benefits it brings them. And while long usage does not make matchmaking right or acceptable, it can be argued that the show does not speak in its favour either, let alone glorify it.

If anything, the overarching theme of Indian Matchmaking seems to be arch sarcasm. Riding on the crest of Sima Taparia’s démodé judgments, complex and fascinating characters are summed up succinctly into a few words — hatthi (strong-willed), jiddi (stubborn) and swabhimani (proud) — supplied by her tech-friendly face-reader. The fact that she considers her work a god-given mandate draws a nice parallel with megalomaniacal political figures who think they know best for the people. Indeed, more than one participant turns to Sima ji because “if not her, then who?” It is a phrase we have heard often in the past months even as evidence of utter failure continues to pile up, much like Sima ji ’s useless stack of CVs and failed dates.

So let’s see the show for what it is: a mirror. And not rely on a commercial enterprise to bear and discharge the responsibility of taking a moral stance. Mithai is, one realises, traditional. But let’s take this one with a pinch of peri-peri.

The author is a fashion commentator and Communications Director at the House of Angadi.

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