‘Indian Matchmaking’ presents painful truths about skin color and love in Indian culture but does nothing to challenge them


Written by Aditi Sangal, CNN

On Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking,” marriage marketing consultant Sima Taparia travels the world to satisfy with hopeful purchasers and assist them discover the proper match for an organized marriage.

The format of the present is straightforward. Hopeful brides- and grooms-to-be meet with Taparia — typically with their overbearing dad and mom in tow — for an preliminary session. Criteria are laid out, potential suitors are introduced on paper, dates are organized, after which it is as much as the couple to resolve if it is a match.

In some respects, the producers needs to be recommended. This is a present that turns away from the “big fat Indian wedding” trope and affords one thing recent: a have a look at how some traditional-facing {couples} meet by means of the companies of an expert matchmaker.

The characters’ tales — in addition to cringier moments — play out in entertaining methods, at occasions revealing the absurdities and awkwardness of matchmaking. I laughed when, for instance, Taparia sought the session of an astrologist and a face reader.

Matchmaker Sima Taparia meets with hopeful purchasers. Credit: Netflix

At different factors, the present presents brutal truths about Indian tradition: the emphasis on being “fair”; the big stress to wed; the concentrate on caste and sophistication; the stigmatization of impartial, working girls.

But the present fails to contextualize and even query these problematic beliefs after they’re introduced up by its characters, presenting them as an alternative as the established order.

With that, Netflix missed a possibility to problem a social system fraught with cultural biases, and in addition educate a worldwide viewers on vital nuances. In Sima Taparia, the present discovered a regressive anchor who merely peddles flawed practices.


Mentioned casually however often all through the eight episodes is the concept that candidates needs to be “fair,” or in different phrases, have gentle pores and skin.

The topic of pores and skin shade and, subsequently, social standing in Indian tradition is extremely advanced. While individuals with darker pores and skin tones are subjected to harsh discrimination and prejudice, equity is revered and related to magnificence, wealth and energy.

Vyasar Ganesan (left) and Rashi (right) on episode six of "Indian Matchmaking."

Vyasar Ganesan (left) and Rashi (proper) on episode six of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix

This cultural bias is engrained from an early age, with girls bearing extra of the societal stress to have lighter pores and skin. If you are a lady, darker pores and skin could be a deal-breaker for households looking for the proper spouse for his or her son. For males, truthful pores and skin is seen as a bonus however not as a lot of a requirement.

Colorism and the desirability of “fairness” is drilled into younger ladies. In my very own case, it began after I was in center faculty in India, when my classmates taunted me for having darker pores and skin. Older girls would additionally make unsolicited feedback about my complexion, veiled as real concern for me and my future marriage prospects.

In India, the magnificence customary is additional perpetuated by popular culture and a booming beauty trade.
Fair and Lovely skin fairness cream at a shop in New Delhi.

Fair and Lovely pores and skin equity cream at a store in New Delhi. Credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP by way of Getty Images

Skin lightening merchandise are closely marketed. Actors with glowing, pale complexions are the celebs of Bollywood films whereas their dark-skinned counterparts play poor, disenfranchised characters. Some courting apps even embody pores and skin tone filters.

Unspoken guidelines

“Indian Matchmaking” itself affords a window into the existence of an elite class of Indians who can enlist the service of a top-tier matchmaker, and in some instances, fly them to the opposite aspect of the world. This shouldn’t be one thing common households do, so standing is already constructed into the narrative.

Perhaps this makes it simpler for households to keep away from explicitly specifying truthful pores and skin as a part of their match standards. Taparia assumes it goes with out saying, and continuously describes girls as a “good person” or match as a result of they’re “fair and good looking.” Some of the households depend on this — it permits them to be politically appropriate and imprecise of their seek for somebody “good looking” with out explicitly saying “fair.”

Pradhyuman Maloo in episode four of "Indian Matchmaking."

Pradhyuman Maloo in episode 4 of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix

Yet, they get precisely the form of complexion they need to see. It’s the equal of writing “caste no bar” in a matrimonial advert — a suggestion that the one that positioned the advert is prepared to contemplate candidates no matter social hierarchy — however in actuality solely happening dates with individuals from the “community,” which turns into a euphemistic catch-all time period for individuals from the identical faith, caste or class.

Take the younger Mumbai-based Pradhyuman Maloo, who options prominently within the present, for example. His well-to-do dad and mom desperately need him to cool down and discover a spouse, however he appears largely uninterested within the girls introduced to him, till he is proven a photograph of Rushali Rai, a good looking mannequin from Delhi. His eyes gentle up on the sight of her. Taparia describes her as “fair and good-looking, but also, she’s smart.”

When Maloo first sees her picture, he’s elated. “Ahh, she’s so cute!”

“I’ll tell you that from her dressing style to her look and everything, how she carries herself, that I can meet her,” he mentioned. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun.”

Pradhyuman Maloo on a date with actor and model Rushali Rai on "Indian Matchmaking."

Pradhyuman Maloo on a date with actor and mannequin Rushali Rai on “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix

Watching the 2 side-by-side on their date, it is unattainable to disregard the truth that, of all of the characters within the present, they’ve essentially the most comparable pores and skin tones. Their pairing does nothing to problem the deep-rooted cultural notion that it’s best to marry somebody with the same background.

Changing attitudes

As for ladies who do not match the “fair, tall and slim” standards, we do see the present acknowledging a unique destiny. Businesswoman Ankita Bansal is distributed to a life coach, with whom she discusses the insecurities she had along with her physique rising up.

“People would come and tell me that you’re never going to find anybody because you have to lose some weight,” mentioned Bansal, including that she suffered from “off the charts” anxiousness. “So that played a very big part in how I lost my confidence completely in even trying to approach a man.”

The life coach acknowledges that such expectations may be unrealistic, and hurtful relating to a lady feeling her true value. “I think it’s so — superficial, maybe, that they’re only defining us by the way we look.”

Nadia Jagessar on episode two of "Indian Matchmaking."

Nadia Jagessar on episode two of “Indian Matchmaking.” Credit: Netflix

But attitudes in the direction of “fairness” and wonder beliefs are altering. Young individuals — who’re often extra social-media savvy and higher educated — really feel extra empowered to go towards the grain, and to place stress on those that proceed to perpetuate magnificence requirements.

There are a number of ongoing campaigns that name out celebrities who endorse skin-lightening merchandise, and a few Bollywood stars have refused to be related with these lotions.

The marketing campaign “Dark is Beautiful” has waged its decade-long battle towards colorism by creating consciousness applications about pores and skin bias. Others like “Dark is Divine” and “Unfair and Lovely” have additionally since joined the battle.

The present sidesteps indicators of such progress, as an alternative offering a platform for outdated clichés over cultural debate and context. Fittingly, in one of many remaining scenes, Richa, a younger Indian American girl, who Tapaira provides “95 out of 100,” reels off her standards for the proper match.

It’s not the primary level in an extended record, however when she involves it, it lands jarringly.

“Not too dark, you know, fair-skinned.”


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