Never has a show sparked so much conversation in my home. While I burst out laughing watching the unexpected silent response of a young man who was asked what he wants in a bride, my husband was writhing uncomfortably in his seat. We are Gen-X’ers — I grew up in the U.S, my husband was raised in India and moved out here in his 20’s.
Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” gives you an in-depth look into the process of finding a life partner through a specific avenue of arranged marriage. Sima Taparia (also previously seen in “A Suitable Girl”) is an elite matchmaker who works with the upper echelons of Indian society. In this series, she ventures out to the United States, and brings her skill set of matchmaking to Indian Americans — GenX & Y’ers.
The docuseries (not to be confused with traditional ‘reality tv’) follows half a dozen or so individuals from various walks of life — an independent female lawyer in Texas, a wealthy jeweler’s son in Mumbai, a school teacher in the Midwest, an female entrepreneur in Delhi, a divorcee with a child, among others.
The show brings to the forefront some of the inane “requirements” that families look for in a potential bride or groom. It is hard not to notice how many times “fair” is casually thrown around, or the preoccupation with height and “slim figure.” It is also curiously striking when you see a young Indian American going on a first date with a girl … and her mother.
The filmmakers navigate through all these various themes with a nuanced sensitivity and a non-judgmental approach. Sima Taparia is the star of the show — carrying through the narrative of each storyline, while sharing with the viewers her thoughts about the process, and frustrations with her clients. Her ultimate comeback — “I cannot do anything if the stars are not aligned.” And she’s not kidding when she says this, as we learn from the astrologists she brings in as a part of her consultancy process.
Entertainment value aside, “Indian Matchmaking” takes its audiences through a full array of emotions … not only showing a character arc for those going through the matchmaking process, but an overall arc of the show. It brings you in with easy-to-pick on Aparna, an overly critical, entitled woman who refuses to watch football with her future partner ever (unless it’s box seats), and exposes you to the complexities of traditional Indian households and hierarchies of power within the home — and not necessarily the way you would imagine them to be.
Don’t expect happily tied up endings in this docuseries. This is not reality TV, and the producers have not forced a “Bachelor” like ending to each character’s story.
“Cringe and binge,” I heard someone say to describe this show. Whether you love it, or you hate it (as was the case in my own household), this show will evoke a response and force you to face your own feelings about societal ‘norms’ of our Indian community and culture.
Disclaimer: The author is a friend of the show’s creator/executive producer and was briefly involved in the casting process.
Antara Bhardwaj is a Kathak artist and filmmaker based in Mountain View, California, where she lives with her husband and son. She runs a dance company and school by the name of Antara Asthaayi Dance. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.