I’m really into dating shows right now. They’ve become my weakness, an Achilles’ heel that I shamefully binge on when I have a moment to myself.
I’ve never been one to be invested in other people’s love lives but there’s something about finding a favourite, watching them go through the motions and hoping they find their happy ending, that’s like chicken soup for the soul.
Lately, Netflix has been delivering with its unscripted dating reality TV shows. With “Dating Around”, I found the simple, unfiltered format a refreshing departure from the usual run-of-the-mill series.
Now they have another winner on their hands. “Indian Matchmaking” gives viewers a look inside the world of arranged marriages. Everything you thought you knew about arranged marriages, and the stereotypes around it, is everything but.
In the series, matchmaker Sima Taparia guides clients in the US and India in the arranged marriage process. It’s a custom that many think has no place in modern society. We’ve heard the horror stories of abuse and neglect as a result of these marriages. It’s a complex situation, something that’s been discussed and debated many times. On the other side of the coin, it’s borne the fruit of a love that’s thrived over years of mutual respect and sacrifice. I’m hoping that’s the message the series is trying to convey.
It’s interesting to note that after the series premier, it received quite the backlash online. Is it over the top? Yes. Are the mothers extra and overbearing? You bet. But that’s what makes for scintillating reality TV. We live for the drama and the clash of cultures, and believe me, there’s a lot of that.
Through a series of complicated formulas, astrology charts and even face readings, Taparia, or Aunty Sima as she is affectionately known, matches up potential partners. Does she get it right? Sometimes, yes and no. That’s no fault of her own, and you’ll see why as the series progresses.
“Indian Matchmaking” follows a group of singles with one goal – they want to find love with someone from the same cultural background. It sounds easy enough but for these unlucky in love test subjects, dating has become a never-ending maze of false starts. Their last resort is enlisting Taparia’s expertise.
And here’s where things become deliciously exciting. If you don’t have the proper education, nor are you born into money, forget about it. Tradition and culture is still very much alive in India, and you realise how much emphasis is placed on a family name, skin colour and most importantly, caste.
When we’re introduced to Houston lawyer Aparna in the first episode, she’s adamant that Taparia matches her up with someone that ticks all her boxes. And then there’s Nadia. Originally from Guyana, the wedding planner finds herself on the rejection list when it comes to every Indian guy she’s met. Pradhyuman, born into money, isn’t ready for commitment but pressure from his family has him struggling to find “The One”. Vyasar just wants someone to share his love for comics and movies with.
You will have your favourites and there will be some that you dislike. When researching other reviews on the series, Aparna was rated as one of the most loathsome characters. Overbearing and sometimes narcissistic, her personality doesn’t exactly make her the series favourite but after a few episodes she grows on you. And I reckon she’s the one that’s matured the most as the series comes to a close.
Akshay was another one that left me frustrated. Emotionally immature, the mommy’s boy had no idea what he wanted in a wife, except that she’s like his mother. To make matters worse, his mother insisted that he choose a wife within six months or she’d do it for him. Sometimes I wish that he’d just grow a pair and stand up to her.
Which brings me to Ankita, a progressive, independent feminist whose ideals have no place in traditional Indian society, admits that she chooses the wrong guys every single time. But after much introspective, with the help of a life coach, she learns to connect with her authentic self, something that I found Ashkay lacking in.
So, what do you get when you bring all these characters together and tell their stories in an enthralling and totally absorbing way? You get a dating show that has binge-worthy appeal. Trust me, you’ll be tempted to Google for series spoilers but stick it out till the end, it’s worth the wait.
“Indian Matchmaking” is proof that with the right amount of data, your stars aligning and unblocking your chakras, you could find love or at least something close to it.
* “Indian Matchmaking” is currently streaming on Netflix