‘Indian Matchmaking’ Review: If ‘Love Is Blind’ Had A Brown, Cheesy And Problematic Cousin
Over 8 episodes, Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia travels from Houston to Chicago to Mumbai to sit her clients down and help them ‘arrange’ their marriage. These desperate for love singles then skim through bio-datas to find potential partners. Then, they go on sometimes fun, sometimes awkward first dates – often with their family in tow – to discover whether these good-on-paper matches can turn into a love that lasts a lifetime. And *NEWS FLASH* the crux of the show doesn’t lie there; instead it is about all the raita that is pheloaed in between these stages. As far as reality TV goes, this nightmarish discovery for love seekers is entertaining but also vexing. Worth the watch you ask? Read the full review to find out!
Indian TV is notorious when it comes to reality shows (read – scripted). So, when Netflix added ‘Indian Matchmaking’ to it’s already existing list of dating shows, we knew we were in for a ride. We have all seen ‘Love In Blind’ and felt what we felt but the stakes were high from the ‘get-go’ for this one cause obviously marriage is the top agenda. And it’s not necessarily coming from the person who will get married but family and society. Yeah, just one of those Indian things. Also, it’s not a secretive, walled pod where you can’t see each other. Here you can very see, judge and draw conclusions per your liking. Fellas, meet the infamous bio-data!
‘They want everything’ and/or ‘Slim, trim, tall’ can be the title of most of the episodes.
The first episode opens right in the middle of a matchmaking session where Sima is trying to figure the likes and preferences of the to-be-groom who is seated next to his mother. While that is that, he has hardly anything to list. His mother on the other hand – uff! Requisites range anything in between slim, trim, tall (5’ 3” or more to be precise) and flexible. Someone who can take care of his younger son, who is required to get married before the year ends so that her elder son can give her a grandchild next. And while candidates are not exactly stereotypical, their parents (its Indian matchmaking, of course parents are involved) are not leaving any stone unturned in making one flinch.
It is all about the display of opulence and the exquisite crafted garments and jewels. Weddings are still stuck by the same parenthesis where momma dearest thinks the future daughter-in-law will love diamonds over individuality cause duh! And in return of the bling, all she wants is a sanskari bahu – try not making that sound like a trade. So, it doesn’t matter if the kid is ready or not, pressure and guilt work their charm. By the matchmaker’s own admission her clientele in India is mostly ‘traditional’ family where a strong headed girl won’t fit in’ and it shows! Worst part is the boy then turns around and looks for someone who is ‘like mummy.’
Not just that; you’d expect the matchmaker to be open but even she can be seen deciding what’s important and not for a ‘happy married life’. Typical, to say the least. Yes, data online can never be verified, so matchmakers are responsible for the information on the bio-datas (for the lack of a better word) which is a lot of work. But how is it that we are still relying on said things in weeding out and then finding love? You see, arrange marriage is not the problem here; it’s the people who are arranging it!
It all boils down to how we look at marriage. And abroad or not, expectations or the standards for an ‘ideal one’ are convoluted.
While back home, marriages are still about how much is spent and how in a big fat Indian wedding, abroad is a different ball game altogether. Like I said before, the guys and girls do know what they want and what they are looking for it often labelled as demanding in the course of the show. Like if a driven woman and has certain standards, she is considered stubborn. “Educated so much, she will not accept anybody” is the reaction really. Now, this is not to say that the ambitious girl is not rigid but it’s not a female or male thing. There’s no unicorn. Not in paper, not anywhere. But the circus is then validated by face reading, astronomy and what not. Even matches that have met once look like they are ‘destined to be married and have twins’. Yeah, it doesn’t work out that way!
Honestly, I can get behind the chanting involved but I’m definitely conflicted about how matches are found in the celestial paths. I could not be in the know but an efficient way would be asking the right questions maybe(?) Another problem in the plot is that there is a plot in the first place. Ideally, reality show cliff-hangers are ads right before the winner is announced. There wasn’t that but it was off-putting when personal trauma was treated like a twist of a scripted show.
Matchmaking gets a lot of flak but it’s not for us to judge, I think. Like they say, to each their own really. However, changes are long-time due.
To give credit where it’s due, one did see some changes unfolding. There are parts in the show that will warm your heart. Especially when they get old-married couples on the couch to talk about their shared lives. Very ‘When Harry Met Sally’ ish, very romantic. Even a few participants showed character and it was refreshing. It really seemed like mutual respect is still a thing amidst all the ghosting and trash talk. The format also switches in between and gives context and side stories to peeps that might be desperate for love but they know if it looks otherwise. Also, another tip to the hat is there is mention and space for professional counselling and relationship advice, so not all is mumbo jumbo. Which did answer a lot of questions about ‘happy marriage ‘ and everything it constitutes or the things that could put it in jeopardy.
Simply speaking, it was nice to see people—people from all walks of life–taking chances, opening up and being vulnerable. Extra nice to see divorced, single moms and dads try their luck in the game of love again. So, it’s not unapologetic and doesn’t take itself seriously.
For someone who had no clue about how the whole match-making scene worked or even the online dating game in general (I’m not a weirdo, I married my college sweetheart after 7 years of courtship), it was a revelation. And honestly, even engrossing. But I’m not going to intellectualize it because even the show doesn’t claim to be deep either. In fact, it does get problematic and cheesy in equal parts. But hey, I have seen worse!
So, if you have a stomach for Indian TV and its tropes, you’re not gonna bat an eyelid. If anything, it might remind you of your nuptials, if you’re married. Or give you insights into how it happens, if you’re not. And if you’re simply not interested in either; it’s another mindless, often vexing watch in the sea of on-demand entertainment that you could skip as well. There’s nothing you’d miss out on.
‘Indian Matchmaking’ is now streaming on Netflix.
Cover Image: Netflix