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‘Comments about Aparna shows our own biases’: Indian Matchmaking creator Smriti Mundhra

Aparna Shewakramani in ‘Indian Matchmaking’   | Photo Credit: Netflix

The Netflix show Indian Matchmaking featuring Sima Taparia, the high profile Mumbai matchmaker, has triggered heated debates on the concept of arranged marriage.

While Sima’s interactions with participants and their families have generated a handful of meme pages, the often regressive nature of these conversations have been flagged by liberal-minded netizens on social media; some called out the show’s producers for failing to suitably adjust the narrative to make a distinction between what was merely awkward family talk and clearly retrograde beliefs that fly under the garb of tradition.

Smriti Mundhra, a Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker is the show’s creator and executive producer.

Smriti Mundhra (L)

Smriti Mundhra (L)   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, who was in conversation with office bearers of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FICCI FLO), Chennai Chapter recently, adds that her biodata too may have passed Sima’s hands at some point of time, and that the idea for the show came about after having observed Sima’s work from close quarters while filming feature documentary A Suitable Girl. Excerpts from the session:

People are intrigued by the show...

It could be because arranged marriage or having to meet a matchmaker could be an inherently relatable process for many. It could be something that you are running away from and that is why it is interesting to watch yet so familiar. But I did not expect it to go viral or even become conversation starters for people.

Your thoughts on how arranged marriage culture was presented on the show...

It was important for me to not sanitise the process of arranged marriages. It does bring up a lot of unwanted conversations like casteism, colourism etc. These are issues that need to be discussed in the open, and probably families were uncomfortable talking or didn’t have the impetus to bring it up and discuss it openly until now.

There has been criticism on how Sima goes about finding an alliance.

Sima’s process is a reflection of what her clients want.

Did you face pressure to get married within your family?

I never faced any direct pressure but there was a lot of implicit pressure... like being told it would be easier to adjust if I married an Indian. These nudges may be well-intentioned, but for each person and each case they differ.

Smriti Mundhra (second from right) with Sima Taparia (C) while filming ‘Indian Matchmaking’

Smriti Mundhra (second from right) with Sima Taparia (C) while filming ‘Indian Matchmaking’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Also, I hope we grow out of this place as a society where we shame someone for choosing to marry outside of our culture. My husband is Brazilian-Irish from New York, and I cannot imagine a better, equitable partnership. My mom didn’t initially approve of my choice. But he has adjusted to my needs more than I have for his. I’m not sure if I’d be able to say that, had I married an Indian guy.

On the issue of divorcees being told to ‘reduce expectations’ on the show...

I don’t think divorces are big, catastrophic failures as they are made out to be. People can survive that experience if they are not shamed by society: the same way marriage should not be tied to one’s self worth.

Participant Aparna Shewakramani has been subjected to social media vitriol. She has gone on record to suggest that the show was edited to fit a narrative. Your thoughts?

When you are live tweeting, you are going to type knee-jerk reactions. Aparna evolved over the course of the show but if she became a flashpoint for people, then it only reveals our own biases of what we expect women to be.

For instance, Pradhyuman (another participant) didn’t get the same backlash that Aparna did. I’m not saying that either deserved it but they all took it in their stride because they have great support systems.

It is easy to sit on a couch and judge somebody instead of looking at your own biases.

So was the show not edited to fit a narrative as Aparna suggests?

There was no intention to misrepresent her. I love Aparna. I think she is amazing. Some of the things she is referring to happened off camera. We can only include things that happen on camera. In the edit room we only work with the footage we have with us. For the most part, Aparna does stand behind everything that was said and done on the show.

Will there be a second season?

Hopefully, Netflix invites us to do another season.

Nadia Jagessar in ‘Indian Matchmaking’

Nadia Jagessar in ‘Indian Matchmaking’   | Photo Credit: Netflix

I believe that it is important for us to see our own lives and experience it on TV, especially in the diaspora. I want people to have fun with the show but also to talk about things that they want to change. Times are changing, and if we have to evolve... young and old people, we need to listen and talk to each other.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 7:51:02 AM |

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