Is the bloom off the rose … ceremony? Reality TV’s latest binge-worthy series features a matchmaker — not a bud-wielding bachelor — calling the shots.
While most dating shows focus on bikinis and hot tub hookups, Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking” has viewers hooked on its addictive blend of dishy drama and budding romance — with a modern twist on arranged marriage.
After dropping on July 16, Twitter is already awash with hot takes and memes about the eight-episode saga led by Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia, known as Sima Auntie to her clients.
Taparia — who travels between India and the US in search for the perfect matches for her picky patrons — seems to have her work cut out for her as she sets up six lovelorn singles with different romantic prospects.
And while matchmaking may seem like an outdated means to marriage, several of the potential matchees admit that dating apps and online courting are to blame for their relationship woes and are ready to take a more old-school approach to finding love.
Here’s everything you need to know about the eight-episode series created by Oscar-nominated director Smriti Mundhra.
Who is ‘Sima Auntie’?
Taparia is a highly sought-after matchmaker throughout the world, especially well-known to many high-profile Marwari families, who are based in the northwestern region of India, according to her website.
The matchmaker, who’s dubbed the “human Tinder” on the show, was herself set up in an arranged marriage at 19 years old and has been married for 37 years.
Although she began her business in Mumbai, her clients now stretch across the world to Australia, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, the UK and the US.
The matchmaker takes a more modern approach to matchmaking, saying in the first episode, “In India, we don’t say ‘arranged marriage’ — there’s marriage and then love marriage.” She hopes to find her clients the latter.
Taparia’s services were even tapped by the filmmaker herself, who requested her help in finding a husband 15 years ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mundhra then used Taparia as one of the main characters in her 2017 documentary, “A Suitable Girl,” which explores arranged marriages as well.
How does the matchmaking work?
When Taparia lands a client, she always begins her process by visiting their home, talking to relatives and asking them questions about their lives and partner preferences.
She then creates a “résumé” of sorts, to use as a matchmaking tool with things like education, work, hobbies — and a photo, of course.
But she also uses more unconventional methods, like astrology and face reading, which is the act of assessing someone’s personality based on the appearance of their face.
With each side’s approval, Taparia sets up a meeting place for the clients, which often sees a romantic prospect traveling long distances just to meet.
The centuries-old South Asian tradition of arranged marriage is still widely practiced today in India, but refusing a partner is also accepted. Self-arranged marriages are also very common, which is where a couple who are already romantically involved go through an arranged marriage with that specific person.
Who are the main players?
The season kicks off by introducing viewers to three clients: Aparna Shewakramani, a 34-year-old attorney from Houston with unreasonably high expectations; Pradhyuman Maloo, 31, a picky bachelor in Mumbai; and Nadia Christina Jagessar, a Morris Plains, New Jersey, event planner who’s been unlucky in love.
Shewakramani quickly proves to be one of Taparia’s most challenging setups as she finds flaws in almost every man she meets, while Jagessar became a fan favorite for her sweet attitude and brush with heartbreak on camera.
“Aparna from Indian matchmaking deserves to be lonely for the rest of her life while Nadia deserves the whole world,” one fan tweeted.
Three new clients are then brought into the fold, including Ankita Bansal, a bold Delhi-based entrepreneur; Vyasar Ganesan, a laid-back guidance counselor from Austin, Texas; and Akshay Jakhete, an overly picky recently graduated student from Mumbai.
The drama is sure to not disappoint as heartbreak, love and tears are all caught on camera.
Not everyone is a fan.
While beloved by many, the show has also received its fair share of backlash already. One criticism is the glamorization of arranged marriages, which, as one person on Twitter explained, has been “hell for most of her twenties.”
“My parents started ‘looking’ for a potential groom while I was in my early twenties (23, I think) because while they were very liberal, it turned out they were pretty conventional too. I wasn’t told about this ‘search’ till two days before the boy and his parents were coming over,” tweeted Nikita Doval in a thread with over 22,000 likes. “The arranged marriage system ruined my relationship with my parents, especially my mum through my twenties. It took a happy go lucky, cheerful kid and made her a nervous wreck who would every single day grapple with the question; what’s wrong with me?”
The appearance of colorism and casteism with some clients listing “fair” skin and coming from a “good family” or caste as desirable traits have also been widely criticized.
“The reason arranged marriage is predominantly a ‘Desi’ thing is because it is rooted in caste. Its not about finding love, it’s about keeping the bloodline ‘pure’ or some other such nonsense. This institution needs to die, not be given a Netflix special,” one critic tweeted.