When my Netflix homescreen lit up with a banner announcing the release of Indian Matchmaking featuring Sima Taparia, I squealed and dove right in.
This isn’t Sima Taparia’s first rodeo on “the world’s leading internet entertainment service”. I’d encountered her before in Sarita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra’s 2017 documentary aptly called A Suitable Girl where Taparia’s own daughter was amongst the three women featured in the the 1.5 hour production that highlighted the arranged marriage journey from an Indian woman’s perspective. But immediately, I could tell that Mundhra’s made-for-Netflix Indian Matchmaking was going to be vastly different, and I’m not just talking about production quality. Let’s get one thing straight – Indian Matchmaking is a ‘reality series’ meant to glamourise the seemingly-magical world of upper-class, upper-caste Indian arranged marriages, but ironically, without the grittiness of reality. While A Suitable Girl focuses on the raw, often tumultuous journey of middle-class Indian women seeking life partners, Indian Matchmaking offers us a more attractively-packaged, far more ‘masaledaar’ take on the subject. One that is probably far-removed from the experience of the international audience who’s watching the series, and of course, people in India from privileged classes who’ve gone down the ‘love marriage’ route. So if you’re expecting something different, re-align viewing expectations right now.
Great, now grab that tub of popcorn.
The eight episode series focuses on a group of men and women who identify as Indian or are of Indian descent, all living in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Houston, Austin & New Jersey. Sima has been engaged to help each of them find a life partner. It’s important to know that almost all of them (or their families) have arrived at the decision to use the services of a matchmaker quite late into their partner-finding journey – and I’m not referring to their age. All of them have explored online dating, being set up by friends and family on dates, and/or have been in relationships that haven’t worked out before. They’re all mentally ready and open to the whole process of finding a life partner this way, and most of them for the right reasons (I’m a little skeptical about one dude). You learn about each of their backstories, and this is handled very well in my opinion.
To be honest, the first two or three episodes felt like something right out of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It felt heavily scripted, some of the ‘characters’ felt like they were exaggerated for shock value (look out for Bolivia and salt flats). What keeps you hooked is Sima herself, and her mastery at the process of sizing up (or down) her clients down to the tee. She is the epitome of ‘trust in the process’ – her edges are razor-sharp, she is not intimidated by the daunting prospect of finding partners for some supremely demanding individuals, and she makes her feelings about her clients having to set their expectations straight very. very clear. I instinctively bristled a bit every time I heard her mention the words “marriage is a compromise”, but I know exactly where she’s coming from. In my opinion, the series transitions from being more of a breezy, shiny outline to something with a little more depth somewhere in the fourth episode. You start to see changes in a few personalities – probably shaped by the failure/success of all their ‘meetings’ – but the changes don’t seem forced or unnatural. As you learn more about each person through their re-telling of their past experiences and/or through their own assessments of their current situation, you start to see a not-so-heavily-edited side to their personal journeys.
Overall, I actually enjoyed my entire binge-watch session. A lot of this depended on my initial expectation-setting (thanks, Sima). Don’t go into this looking for an authentic portrayal of the struggles of finding an Indian arranged match, and you’ll enjoy it too!
If you’ve watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or connecting with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
(Feature image taken from the official Netflix page for the series)