Indian American Smriti Mundhra says she could have sanitized Matchmaking, but chose not to.
Smriti Mundhra, an executive producer of hit Netflix reality series Indian Matchmaking, has defended the show against criticism that it is normalizes sexism, casteism and colorism.
The series, which premiered on July 16, follows Sima Taparia, a popular Mumbai matchmaker, as she works with her clients in order to find them an ideal spouse. The show navigates between Mumbai and Delhi in India and U.S. cities such as New York, Houston, Austin, Chicago and San Diego.
While it is enjoying extreme popularity, as evident by its placement in the top 10 of Netflix’s global television show rankings, it was also widely panned on social media as many have called out Matchmaking for the ideas and concepts it perpetuates about arranged marriages and Indian culture.
Appearing on the Indian American digital media guru Sree Sreenivasan’s daily show “sreecovid19call” on Friday, Mundhra, who is based in the Los Angeles area, responded to the criticisms that Matchmaking has faced. She said it was a very deliberate choice to not sanitize the show by making it more politically correct.
“It would have been very easy for us to edit out the three or four references to fairness on the show and save everyone a lot of headaches. But what good is that gonna do us?” Mundhra said, answering a question from M.R. Rangaswami, founder of the nonprofit Indiaspora, who co-hosted the show. “What good is it gonna do to make arranged marriage, or matchmaking, or Indian culture seem better or more progressive than they really are?”
‘Indian Matchmaking’: where sexism, colorism and casteism meet (July 22, 2020)
Mundhra said the producers left things open to interpretation to allow a conversation by showing the full picture, both the positive aspects of the culture, along with the negatives.“We wanted to leave it all in there and let people take away from it what they would.”
Vyasar Ganesan, a fan favorite participant from Matchmaking who also appeared on Sreenivasan’s show, shared a similar sentiment about the series. He said Matchmaking was aiming for nothing other than true reality.
“There were moments where my family would say something that I got really nervous about, like ‘Oh is that going to be on the show? It’s not necessarily the most PC thing to say, it’s not showing my family in the best light,’ but I also had to remind myself, but it’s real,” said Ganesan.
Mundhra, who came up with the concept for the show, is a former client of Sima Taparia’s, the Mumbai matchmaker featured on the series, talked about the genesis of the show.
“I was also a failed matchmaking client of Sima’s — she was my matchmaker… over 10 years ago,” the executive producer said. “I’ve been through the process of trying to find a life partner through… the so-called arranged marriage process. My family was very involved and I had matchmakers. I had an ad in the matrimonial the Times of India matrimonial section. I had a Shaadi.com profile, which my mother managed completely.”
Mundhra said it was an “interesting process” and she “learned a lot of nuances about” the idea of arranged marriages — “how much it has changed and evolved and how much it needs to change and evolve.”
She said it led to documentary, Suitable Girl, which follows three young Indian women who are under pressure to get married. (One of the women featured is a daughter of Taparia.)
“But what we didn’t explore in that documentary was Sima’s business, her clients, and sort of the idea of how young people… are grappling with this institution,” Mundhra said.
Mundhra is also the co-director and producer of St. Louis Superman, a 2019 documentary on a battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative, which was nominated for the 2020 Oscar.
Watch the interview: