Netflix's 'Indian Matchmaking' Sparks Debate About Colorism, Classism : Goats and Soda The TV series, which debuted on the streaming service this month, has sparked debates about colorism, classism and casteism.
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Netflix's 'Indian Matchmaking' Is The Talk Of India — And Not In A Good Way

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Netflix's 'Indian Matchmaking' Is The Talk Of India — And Not In A Good Way

Netflix's 'Indian Matchmaking' Is The Talk Of India — And Not In A Good Way

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/895008997/898291578" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Romantic marriages - love matches, if you will - are the norm in the United States but not in India. Eighty percent of all marriages there are arranged. That kind of union is the subject of a new reality show on Netflix. It's become hugely popular but not exactly in a good way, as NPR's India producer Sushmita Pathak reports.

SUSHMITA PATHAK, BYLINE: The show is called "Indian Matchmaking" and follows an elite matchmaker as she jets around the world arranging marriages.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INDIAN MATCHMAKING")

SIMA TAPARIA: I'm Sima Taparia. I'm Mumbai's top matchmaker.

PATHAK: Taparia tries to understand her clients' preferences and introduces them to a compatible mate. The participants go on awkward first dates, dissect their encounters with friends and family and suffer romantic setbacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INDIAN MATCHMAKING")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I just got really upset. Like (crying)...

PATHAK: Taparia advises women to adjust and compromise. One of the men says he's looking for a wife who will take care of all the housework who's exactly like his mother. Film critic Poulomi Das says the show irresponsibly airs the regressive beliefs of the participants and the 57-year-old matchmaker.

POULOMI DAS: Sima Taparia, whose version of arranged marriage is still, like, stuck in the '90s - they gave her, like, free rein to peddle whatever she was saying as fact.

PATHAK: Several times in the series, Taparia and her clients say someone is a good match because they're fair-skinned. That's problematic, says Das. Colorism is rampant in India. Darker-skinned Indians face discrimination and are made to feel insecure.

DAS: An obsession with fair skin can't be a preference. It is a harmful, regressive brutality, in a sense.

PATHAK: Arranged marriages are rooted in Hinduism's caste system and typically occur between people of the same caste. Dozens of Indians are killed each year for marrying outside their caste, but critics say the show glosses over all that and portrays arranged marriage as a harmless, quirky alternative to dating.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INDIAN MATCHMAKING")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's like Tinder Premium.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Tinder Premium - exactly - but with families involved.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah (laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yeah.

PATHAK: Social media is flooded with memes and jokes about "Indian Matchmaking," especially some of the gender stereotypes that it portrays. But Nikita Doval is not amused.

NIKITA DOVAL: There are women who are at the receiving end of these sentiments, and it can be very, very difficult for them.

PATHAK: Doval is a 39-year-old writer whose family tried to arrange a marriage for her when she was in her 20s. The show triggered bad memories for her of how prospective husbands would ask her to make up her mind after a short first meeting. One even asked her if she was a virgin. The whole process gave her panic attacks.

DOVAL: Every ring of the phone used to make the bottom of my stomach fall out.

PATHAK: The show has sparked an outpouring on social media of similar stories. It hits a raw nerve because it exposes the hypocrisy of Indian society, says gender activist and author Amita Nigam Sahaya.

AMITA NIGAM SAHAYA: We've actually given all the tools to our daughters vis-a-vis education, financial autonomy. But the moment, you know, she reaches a particular point where she actually gets into the partnership with a man, we try to pull back and say now is the time for you to take hundred steps back into a very traditional role.

PATHAK: The makers of the series say they wanted to start a conversation by portraying this unfiltered reality, even if it makes the show hard to watch.

For NPR News, I'm Sushmita Pathak in Mumbai.

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