With a cast of real-life characters whose lives prove more melodramatic than a prime time Ekta Kapoor soap opera, Netflix strikes gold with its new factual series 'Indian Matchmaking'.
While traditional Indian matchmaking and arranged marriages are a centuries old concept and nothing new to Indian viewers, it's the personal stories and entertainment factor on offer that makes this show appealing to global audiences. You don't have to be desi to enjoy this addictive cultural ride.
Consisting an easy to binge-watch eight episodes, the show follows Mumbai's self-confessed “best matchmaker” Sima Taparia as she weighs up the biodatas of candidates in India and the United States in the hope of finding them a suitable spouse. There's Delhi-based Pradhyuman, the high-end diamond jewellery designer whose whims and fancies include horse polo and crafting amuse bouche with dry ice. Contrast that to stubborn Houston?lawyer Aparna Shewakramani who ponders why it would be necessary for women like her to have to see their husbands every day.
Often faced with a long list of demands (he/she must be tall, fair, slim, attractive, educated, career-driven yet homely... you get the picture) Sima aunty's job is unenviable. Add to that the unique challenges of matchmaking, for instance, an Indian Guyanese wedding planner and high school counsellor with a criminal father - its not always a straight-forward affair. However, Taparia takes it all in her stride.
With the help of a motely crew of agents, including a dubious face reader, astrologer, life coach and even another matchmaker, Taparia meets, assesses and matches singletons in the hope of hearing wedding bells and earning her top end commission. After all, enlisting the services of a premier matchmaker with a first-class reputation and track record like hers doesn't come cheap!
A riot of personality clashes, high expectations and awkward first meetings between families, 'Indian Matchmaking' offers a rare and comical insight into the mindset of upper/middle class families in today's urban India and America. You can't help but root for all those searching for their soulmates, while simultaneously smacking your hand to your forehead in frustration at their unreal beliefs on what makes a good marriage partner.
More interesting perhaps is the darker, real side of Indian culture and matchmaking factors that come into play. Social status, dowry, colourism and the caste system are issues conveniently ignored by the matchmaker and the show's producers who prefer to play it safe.
Had this series been made with working class urban or rural families under the lens, the actual reality of Indian matchmaking would have been exposed. Maybe that could be an idea for season two.
by Jaspreet P. Bajaj
*iGlobal Review Series