By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI (Reuters) – A new Netflix show about an Indian matchmaker catering to the high demands of potential brides and grooms, and their parents, has stoked an online debate about arranged marriages in the country.
The eight-part series “Indian Matchmaking” premiered on Netflix on Thursday and is currently among its top ranked India shows. It features Sima Taparia, a real-life matchmaker from Mumbai, who offers her services to families within India and abroad.
Arranged marriages in India see parents leading efforts to find a suitable match for their children. The show has become a subject of memes and jokes, and criticism, on how individuals and their parents are picky and have a long list of demands that centre around factors like caste, height or skin colour.
The show “makes very clear how regressive Indian communities can be. Where sexism, casteism, and classism are a prevalent part of the process of finding a life partner,” wrote Twitter user Maunika Gowardhan.
Thousands of Twitter and Instagram posts echo that view. “The show is simply holding a mirror to the ugly society we are a part of,” Vishaka George, another Twitter user, wrote.
Created by Oscar-nominated director Smriti Mundhra, the show focuses on matchmaker Taparia’s visits to the homes of families who need her assistance. After hearing their demands, she presents résumés of prospective matches and then arranges for meetings.
“The two families have their reputation and many millions of dollars at stake. So the parents guide their children,” Taparia says at one point in the show, referring to some of her wealthier clients.
In the first episode titled “Slim, Trim and Educated”, an Indian mother tells Taparia her son is getting a lot of marriage proposals but in most cases the prospective bride’s education or height was not ideal.
Just as Taparia says: “So you want a smart, outgoing, height …” the mother interjects, “I won’t even consider (a girl) below 5 feet 3 inches.”
Some have praised the show for its honesty and treating its subjects respectfully.
“The hate against it is, frankly, baffling … Indian Matchmaking is well on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon,” a column in the Mint newspaper said.
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Tom Brown)