TV

Netflix Show ‘Indian Matchmaking’ Is Problematic and Cringey, So Why Can’t I Stop Watching It?

Indian internet’s favourite new reality star is a matchmaker from Mumbai.
July 21, 2020, 6:15am
indian matchmaking netflix
A still from 'Indian Matchmaking'. Photo courtesy of Netflix

“In India, marriages are breaking like biscuits,” says Sima Taparia.

“Then why even bother going through the ordeal of getting married?” I scream at my laptop screen. It’s 3.30 a.m. on what I think is a Sunday. “I shouldn’t be watching this shit,” I say to myself. My cats agree. But this is a trainwreck I somehow can’t take my eyes off of.

Netflix’s latest docu-reality series Indian Matchmaking is an 8-episode cringe fest that delves into the theatrics of arranged marriages. At the centre of it all is our main character Sima Taparia—a matchmaking entrepreneur from Mumbai, who has now famously become the subject of a variety of memes and tweets pulling it up for its problematic content. Everyone’s talking about the show—from my comedian friends to my mom’s cousin’s aunt. In many ways, this show is India’s Tiger King. But unlike the latter, Indian Matchmaking lacks any depth or intrigue (I mean Aparna counts as a feisty lioness, TBH). It already stands at a rating of 5.9 on IMDb, and falling. Then why is everyone so hooked on it?

From the very first scene, we are made aware that we are in a weird Rajshri Films wet-dream-come-true, when Preeti (god, I hate this woman!) is appealing to Sima to find a literal goddess for her umbilically attached man-child Akshay. Sima is the main narrator for us, so of course we have to see the world through her quinquagenarian eyes. If a girl dares to have a job and dare I say, a personality, Sima Aunty is quick to dismiss her as stubborn, demanding, and difficult to pair. While on the other hand, handsome party boy Pradhyuman (who I personally feel is wasting all that time living in the closet) could do no wrong. The double standards are apparent.

1595311449125-IndianMatchmaking_Season1_Episode4_00_36_38_18_RC

Pradhyuman and his sister talking to Sima. Photo courtesy of Netflix

But at the same time, the show offers individuals we can really root for, who managed to warm up the cockles of even my cold heart. There’s Nadia, an event planner whose Indian ancestors settled in Guyana in the 1800s, who is just so pretty and precious, and when she got ghosted by her match, my partner and I literally stalked the guy on Instagram who stood her up to sound off on him.

1595310679635-IndianMatchmaking_Season1_Episode2_00_22_28_15

Nadia. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Then there’s Vyasar, a public school teacher and an all-out nerd. I might be partial to him because he’s the kinda dude I am into. But I really found myself hoping he’d find love, despite the overt dramatisation of his father’s sketchy past. We also meet women who are dealing with body image issues and divorces, so it’s not to say we don’t get varied backgrounds, but they come in way too late into the show.

All in all, through the seven main characters, the show uses just about enough reality TV-esque baiting to keep us coming back for more. Each episode made me realise why I hate heteronormalised perspectives to begin with. At a recent family screaming match, I flat-out told my folks how much I hate the fact that I cannot celebrate my love like my sisters could, because they married within their religion and caste, or well, to the opposite gender. Far be it for me to enjoy something that celebrates the grandeur of the Great Indian Wedding, followed by the Great Indian Custody Battle. But I also think for me, and for several others, the plots within the show exposed our reality for what it really is.

I hate to admit it, but maybe Indian Matchmaking, a show made by white folks with their menial understanding of what being desi (which for them equates to being filthy rich and upper caste) means, could possibly be telling us why arranged marriages are a farce, so much so that in the final episode, one of Sima’s clients Rupam actually finds a man through Bumble, thereby making her services redundant.

The truth that the show also showcases is that Indians won’t mend their ways, even when they have all the money in the world and when they move out of their motherland. They still want to get their kundlis (horoscopes) matched by pundits with teeth more stained than the windows in an abandoned church. Point being, we revel in this. Until recently, we looked towards TikTok for our daily dose of cringe, and now that it’s gone, we’re all lapping up this show. We also have to remember why trashy TV works in the first place. It might be easy to dismiss but its rawness forces us to confront our own reality, holding up both, a window and a mirror to the society we live in. It might be toxic, exploitative, full of rich people with privilege but it allows access to lives we are otherwise not privy to.

1595310940020-IndianMatchmaking_Season1_Episode5_00_21_25_15_RC

The matching of horoscopes remains the cornerstone for most arranged marriages. Pictured here is astrologer Sushilji with Sima Taparia. Photo courtesy of Netflix

But now that Indian Matchmaking has been released for the world to witness, people are wasting no time bashing it, calling it all sorts of names and some of my friends are even planning on signing a petition to get it off Netflix. It’s like we’ve forgotten what it's like to be adults.

I honestly feel it’s totally okay to watch it. Cringe watch it, binge watch it, hate watch it, love watch it. Just watch it. Hell, start a Netflix watch party, grab your parents or your partners. I guarantee you’ll laugh your asses off, and at certain points, even find yourself rooting for some of these people. We need all kinds of shows in the world. Any series that promises to make me not think about the fucking pandemic for a couple of days is worth it, I’d say. And if nothing works, remember you can always contact Sima Aunty, and she will remind you to adjust and compromise, and move on with your life.

Follow Navin Noronha on Instagram.