Spoiler-Free Review: “Indian Matchmaking” (2020)

[1] This show is basically romanticizing patriarchy.

[2] If there is any critique, it’s not that of arranged marriages, but of the unspoken biases, the pressure of marriage, and cringeworthy laundry list of preferences that constantly perpetuate.

[3] I was fuming at Geeta’s “women need to adjust more.” I have SO many issues with this show… the matchmaker’s job depends on the patriarchal society, but it is truly representative of the culture. Truly representative. Which is the sad part.

[4] The fact that so many people cringed watching it only proves how real those people felt to us. The appeal lies in the fact that whether you laugh or scream, it’s difficult to deny that the whole thing has a wallop of truth to it.

[5] This is the whole purpose of the show: to make people cringe and relate at the same time so that they can understand that what’s wrong and what needs to be changed.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews from Indians in the diaspora

This is THE show (on Netflix) being discussed the past week on Twitter! While Helen of Troy may’ve launched a 1,000 ships, this show probably launched a 1,000 think-pieces. Indian Matchmaking sprung from the mind of Smriti Mudhra (a millennial documentary filmmaker raised in the US); she was nominated for an Oscar for her short film- St. Louis Superman (2019). Now, I know what some of you are thinking- isn’t this a reality show!? A pop culture critic was calling it a mash-up of The Real Housewives, Monsoon Wedding, and The Bachelor. Mudhra described it as a “commercial docu-series” on an interview w/ professor Sree Srinivasan on his YouTube channel (see comment below for full video).

For the first few days after its release, I resisted watching it (b/c I usually don’t watch everything that’s “popular”). Then, last SUN, I gave in… and quickly realized WHY so many viewers found it “cringey.” I found it partly cringe-worthy, but also partly tolerable (as in I couldn’t look away). There are two characters (one in US, one in India) who I could relate to. I will keep this spoiler-free, BUT I must warn you that sensitive issues will come up (see comments below for further reading). Is this show regressive, or is it revealing hard truths re: the arranged marriage process (“holding a mirror to nature”)? Are desis hungry for representation? Is this show enjoyable? Let me know your thoughts below!

The show follows 7 single individuals of Indian heritage (ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-30s) living in the US and India. They’re clients of the narrator/main protagonist, Sima Taparia, who refers to herself as “Mumbai’s Top Matchmaker.” Her business is “booming,” as arranged marriage is the norm in India (no stats are given on this, but it’s part of the culture). Sima Auntie (as she is commonly known) explains that she works w/ more “traditional families” who see marriage as a union of two families, not only the couple. The clients in India are among the 1% (elite): a jeweler (Pradhyuman), an engineer who went to college in the US (Akshay), and a fashion designer/entrepreneur (Ankita). The clients in the US are middle to upper-middle class; this group includes an educator in Austin (Vyasar), a lawyer in Houston (Aparna), a Guyanese dance teacher/entrepreneur in New Jersey (Nadia), and a Sikh divorced mom in Colorado (Rupam). Sima chooses matches for these people and sets them up on arranged dates, sometimes w/ family in tow.

There is no mention of how much money clients pay Sima over the 8 eps (around 30 minutes each), I assume it’s a hefty sum. It’s also assumed (by us in the desi diaspora) that most of Sima’s clients are Hindu, wealthy, and come from the upper caste; other viewers may or may not realize this. There is no discussion of the caste system. Some words are defined onscreen; “biodata” (a sort of resume for singles) is explained in detail. There are several instances where the words “tall, slim, and fair” (as in light-skinned) are used to describe prospective matches or clients’ preferences. Colorism is a big problem in India, as well as other nations of the world. The way these words are used may not shock most desis, but this show isn’t only being watched by us. It was a BIT jarring- at first. The words “good character” and “good heart” were used often to describe individuals.

18 thoughts on “Spoiler-Free Review: “Indian Matchmaking” (2020)

    • Yeah, some of my friends IRL were discussing it TOO much last month; I had to mute them for bit (on WhatsApp)! Just keeping it real- LOL! I learned about it from them & Twitter- so don’t think even need to watch.


  1. [spoilers]

    re: Aparna, I find my responses very mixed, i.e., I think “good for her for being clear on what she wants” (and isn’t this an advantage of the matchmaking scenario? That you can just say “no” without having to have three dates?) and also “girl, you don’t get to decide everything about your partner even in a love marriage.” I both like that she’s “picky” and am skeptical that that attitude fits well with seeking a mate. In the end, I found myself wondering why precisely she wants to get married. Is it cultural pressure? She seems really satisfied (if not happy) on her own. It seems like it would be really hard to be married (and eventually a parent) and still go on these experience vacations all the time. Anyway, I’ve only watched the first 3 episodes, so I guess I will find out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I finally started watching this. The thing that strikes me the most is how well off everyone in the show is (including the Indian – Americans). That bothers me to a greater extent on a “representation” level than whether the show accurately portrays Indian or “desi” attitudes (how can one show do that? India is HUGE). I keep finding myself wondering about how people who are not mega rich or at least upper middle class deal with this matchmaking business.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow- V good point! I’m sure there are also matchmakers for working class in India, but I think it’s probably NOT high-tech & more organic (EX: via your relatives, temple, close friends, town ppl).


      • Tbh I don’t think I’ve ever met an Indian-American who wasn’t upper middle class. That has something to do with my job (i.e., universities). I suppose the family that runs the local Indian restaurant is maybe “just” middle class. But there’s definitely a “model minority” component to my awareness of South Asians in the US. My acquaintances and friends are all very well educated.


  3. i watched the show a couple of weeks back. in my opinion it is showing the bitter truth of our culture, of casteism, & colourism. it is regressive, yes, but also gives us an opportunity to have more conversation about it. having arranged marriage isn’t bad if it is not forceful. non of the participants in the show were “forced” into an arranged marriage. matrimony sites and even dating apps also have the concept of “arranged” relationship. unless and until both the girl and the boy give their consent to such arrangement, i think it is perfectly fine. overall, i think it’s a great show for allowing people to see what is wrong and regressive, not just in indian set up, but in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had also seen a lot of publicity about this but hadn’t been reading it — i was curious, though. Is it appropriate for non-Indians / non-desis ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh sure, IF you’re curious, can check it out! You may also find that there are important social issues that are simply glossed over. Things come up which will be upsetting to modern feminists. Also, few desi ppl found it somewhat “triggering,” so couldn’t watch it all. For others, they just don’t have tolerance for this topic, b/c it’s too “old-fashioned.”

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.