August 10, 2020
Indian Matchmaker Creator Responds to Critics
When a producer succeeds in creating and broadcasting a popular television program these days, it’s almost a guarantee that there will be critics, both professional and amateur, letting the world know everything they think is wrong with that program. So it’s not surprising that critics have come after the popular Netflix program, Indian Matchmaking.
The program offers a window into the world and business of Sima Taparia, a matchmaker in Mumbai, India, who goes around the world looking to find “life partners” for her clients. The program was a hit for Netflix, so, of course, social media was abuzz with people finding problems with just about every aspect of the program, from the characters to the themes presented, especially the themes presented. Critics came after the show’s creator, Smriti Mundhra, accusing Mundhra of promoting “colorism, sexism, and elitism” as forms of entertainment.
Speaking to CNN about the criticisms, Mundhra said those comments are “completely valid,” adding, “I totally understand why people feel like (we) are exposing some of the problematic things in our culture… But that’s where we are. I would never want to make a show that sanitizes that because I think we need to have those conversations, and we need to push to do better as a culture…”
And, adding to the realism and depth of the program, Mundhra was actually a client of Taparia’s prior to producing the program. That led to Taparia being featured in a documentary created by Mundhra, inspiring the filmmaker to share more of the matchmaker’s story with the public. She liked the idea, but found the execution to be difficult:
“It’s difficult to convince people who are very private about a process and private about their lives to sort of go through it with cameras for a dating show… But there were some people who were up for the adventure…”
Mundhra said their casting process focused on delivering “as much diversity as possible,” but this effort did not appear to deliver well enough for the critics. In the end, though, the point was to produce an entertaining TV program, so Mundhra focused most on finding characters who would be compelling for viewers. “Some of them are amazingly candid… say some things that might rub people the wrong way… we’re all trying to navigate, trying to figure out how much of ourselves do we compromise (in order to find a relationship)…”
Based on the popularity of the program, it appears Mundhra found a marketable formula, regardless of critical reaction. The question some are asking now, is will she lean into those aspects that she agrees are not such a great reflection of the current culture, or will the show become a touchstone for cultural change? A lot of that will have to do with the messaging coming from the producers going forward, and whether it’s the fans or the critics who control the popular narrative.