Indian Matchmaking web show's director Smriti Mundhra: The subject is personal, criticism is inevitable

Updated: Jul 26, 2020, 08:59 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

It's the most talked-about web show right now and its Oscar-nominated director feels it has served as trigger for a long overdue conversation around marriage

Pradhyuman and Rushali met on the show. He is a jeweller from Mumbai and she, a model in Delhi
Pradhyuman and Rushali met on the show. He is a jeweller from Mumbai and she, a model in Delhi

The Internet is steaming, and Sima aunty from Mumbai is the trigger. Netflix's brand new show, Indian Matchmaking, has turned the arranged marriage business in India into a talking point, with a slice-of-life look at the unrealistic expectations harboured by young men and women, and boys with mild Oedipal complex. Its director, Smriti Mundhra, who made the Oscar-nominated A Suitable Girl, a story about three women fighting the pressure to get married, tells us she is not fazed by the avalanche of criticism.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

Smriti Mundhra
Smriti Mundhra

What did you discover about the Indian marriage scene during research, and shooting?

The Indian marriage scene is as broad and diverse as India itself. No one method or set of ideals works for everyone. Having been through the process myself, I came to recognise that marriage in India is starting to become more flexible and adapt to the needs of young people. For many, the term "arranged marriage" is loose, and really just means that the parents are involved in the process of finding a life partner. Of course, the more conservative and traditional ideas of arranged marriage also exist in our culture.

Why choose "matchmaking" in the age of dating apps?

The idea behind the show was to show how the process of and ideas around arranged marriage are changing, and what's constant. We knew we could never make a show that would represent every aspect of this very complex and diverse topic, so we focused on one matchmaker and her clients, and tried to depict as many diverse points of view and backgrounds as possible, while staying authentic. 

Matchmaker Sima Taparia from Mumbai is the protagonist of the show
Matchmaker Sima Taparia from Mumbai is the protagonist of the show

The people chosen are real, not actors. How did you go about the selection process?

First, it started with who was willing to go through this process with cameras on them. That prospect eliminated a lot of people from Sima's list of clients. We also did some outreach on our own. Of the group that was willing, we focused on the people who were the most open, ready to be honest and represented different aspects of the Indian and diasporic experience.

Also Read: Watch Video: Sameera Reddy's spoof on 'Indian Matchmaking' with mother-in-law leaves netizens in splits

Did you stop to think if it may come across as regressive?

It was all about people being themselves, and us showing the process for what it really is. We tried to reflect the reality of our subjects, not project what we think the process should be.

Mumbai-based Akshay at the roka ceremony. His mother had specifications for the sort of person she was seeking as daughter-in-law
Mumbai-based Akshay at the roka ceremony. His mother had specifications for the sort of person she was seeking as daughter-in-law 

What did you want audiences to take away from the show?

That Indians and South Asians are not monolithic: we have different experiences, backgrounds, ideologies and priorities that impact our approach to finding a life partner. This show only gets into a tiny bit of that. But I hope it continues to spark necessary conversations within families, among friends and between generations.

What do you make of the reactions—the good and the bad?

I welcome it all. I'm thrilled with the praise and also understand that with a topic like this, which is so personal, criticism is inevitable. We are having necessary and long-overdue conversations [because of the show] and that's a good thing.

Also Read: You Have To 'Adjust And Compromise' To Watch Netflix' Indian Matchmaking 

'Sima Aunty is not wrong'

Aarti and Hitesh Chhabria
Aarti and Hitesh Chhabria

Mumbai's Hitesh and Aarti Chhabria, who run Soulmeet, a matchmaking service for Sindhis and Punjabis, turn reviewers for Sunday mid-day

SO, yes, the show is a bit dramatised, and the long pauses are awkward. But, that could be because the people are not actors, and they are uncomfortable in front of a camera. But the rest of it is quite real and matchmaker Sima Taparia, is really not a bad sort. Despite her age, she has the patience to deal with all kinds of people. When she says "compromise", she doesn't mean that you get married below your class or specifications. She means people need to adjust. For example, if you are a girl who stands at 5 feet 3 inches, and you only want a boy who is 5 feet 10 inches, she may tell you to see a man who is 5.8, but is still ticking off all the other boxes on your list. She is also right when she says that parents should be involved in the process. We have experienced sometimes that couples meet and date for months and eventually, don't get married if parents aren't involved.

Much like on the show, the girls are more demanding, and rarely want to climb down. We have had clients who came to us when they were 23, and they haven't found a match even at 36. Thanks to dating apps that may be fulfilling their emotional and physical needs, they are okay even if the match is delayed.

It could be because they want too much. Or it could be thanks to, as Sima says, destiny.

We once facilitated a couple who were in love, and got them married, and they got divorced in six months. We are not sure why some people are critical of the show. It reflects exactly what is happening.

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  • 1/12

    Neil Nitin Mukesh: The actor married Rukmini Sahay on February 9, 2017, in Udaipur. "I am extremely happy. This is something I left for my parents to decide many years back. I am really happy that they found Rukmini," the actor had said on being asked about his arranged marriage to Rukmini. In September 2018, the couple was blessed with a baby girl, who is named Nurvi Neil Mukesh.

  • 2/12

    Karan Patel: The 'Yeh Hai Mohabbatein' actor Karan Patel married actress Ankita Bhargava, in an arranged marriage setup. Ankita is the daughter of actor Abhay Bhargava, who essays the role of Karan's father-in-law, Mr Iyer, in the show. The two met through their respective families.

  • 3/12

    Shahid Kapoor: On July 7, 2015, Shahid Kapoor married Mira Rajput, who is 13 years younger to him, in a traditional Punjabi wedding attended by close family and friends in Delhi. The two met through the group Radha Saomi Satsang and it was Shahid's father Pankaj Kapur who was instrumental in making this match happen. Shahid and Mira are proud parents of two children - daughter Misha and son Zain.

  • 4/12

    Madhuri Dixit: The Dhak Dhak girl's brother Ajit introduced her to Dr Shriram Nene. When Madhuri took a break in 1999 following her alleged break-up with Sanjay Dutt, she visited her brother in the US, and that's when she was introduced to Nene. Madhuri Dixit and Dr Shriram Nene got married on October 17, 1999. The couple has two sons - Arin and Raayan Dixit.

  • 5/12

    Jay Soni: TV show 'Sasural Genda Phool' fame Jay Soni had an arranged marriage with Pooja Shah on February 18, 2014. The couple has a daughter, who will turn one in April, 2019.

  • 6/12

    Nikitin Dheer: The 'Thangabali' actor married Television actress Kratika Sengar got married in 2014. Nikitin's father - veteran actor Pankaj Dheer was working on his directorial debut, which had Kratika as the female lead, which is when he figured that the actress could be the perfect match for his son. Pankaj Dheer later expressed his thoughts to the actress and, soon, approached her parents and eventually things fell in place.

  • 7/12

    Divyanka Tripathi: The Yeh Hai Mohabbatein actress met Vivek Dahiya on the sets of the same show and eventually the couple got married in 2016. However, it wasn't a love marriage! The actress had told mid-day, "We were introduced to each other by a common friend in August 2015 for marriage prospects. After this, it was awkward for us to shoot together. But I don't think our co-actors ever got a hint. There was no courtship as we were looking at the relationship culminating into marriage."

  • 8/12

    Neha Marda: The television actress, who rose to fame with the popular show Balika Vadhu, married Ayushman Agrawal, a Patna-based businessman, in an arranged marriage. The couple's parents initially met each other first and post that, Ayushman came down to Mumbai for a business conference and met Neha for the first time.

  • 9/12

    Vivek Oberoi: Junior Oberoi had an arranged marriage with Priyanka Alva, daughter of Karnataka minister Jeevaraj Alva, on October 29, 2010. The couple has a son, Vivaan, and a daughter, Ameyaa.

  • 10/12

    Raj Kapoor: Raj Kapoor had a traditional arranged marriage. He got married to Krishna Malhotra in 1940. Reportedly, his father, Prithviraj Kapoor brought the couple together. The couple had five children: three sons, actors Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv, and two daughters, Ritu Nanda and Rima Jain.

  • 11/12

    Shammi Kapoor: The 'Junglee' star too had an arranged marriage. He married Neila Devi after the demise of his first wife Geeta Bali. Reportedly, the marriage was arranged by his filmmaker brother Raj Kapoor's wife Krishna Kapoor.

  • 12/12

    Govinda: He too had a love cum arranged marriage with Sunita, who is the actor's maternal uncle, Anand Singh's sister-in-law. Govinda and Sunita tied the knot on March 11, 1987. The couple has two children, a son Yashvardhan and daughter Tina Ahuja.

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