Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia, the disarming central figure at the heart of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated unstructured reality series “Indian Matchmaking,” can’t seem to change your entire life all at once. But as the eight-episode series shows, she is essentially the Mary Poppins of the Indian court, only her bag of endless tricks includes charts of preferences, intuition, and a lot of patience.
“I met Sima for personal reasons,” executive producer Smriti Mundhra said. “She was in fact my matchmaker. When I was 20, my family was very anxious about when I was going to get married. When I first met her I think at that point I was too stubborn about the process, but I was so enthralled with her as a personality that I knew she would be a great one. topic for a TV show.
And if you’re a very savvy movie buff, you might have even seen Sima Auntie (one of her nicknames) before, as she was a key supporting figure in Mundhra’s 2017 award-winning documentary “A Suitable Girl.” , which also portrays young women. in India struggling with marriage and taking that next big step. In the film, Sima’s daughter Ritu is actually one of the subjects, but “Indian Matchmaking” shoots the cameras in the United States, where the subjects come from places as urban as San Diego and as rural as College Station, Texas. And unlike her previous documentary, this series tells of men as well as women, with a deep diversity even within the Indian community, such as a Guyanese beatific who is deemed “difficult to match” because of her mixed heritage, and a schoolteacher. from Austin plush. housing a potentially dark family secret.
“It was really tough getting season 1 started because it wasn’t like a show formatted like a typical dating show,” Mundhra says, “and it wasn’t like a documentary where we were going to film for years. and years and going into every crevice of people’s lives, that was something in the middle. And I think it was a challenge to explain to people that it wasn’t going to be this brutal and exploitative thing. .
Mundhra took a very relaxed approach to filming instead, much like in his 2019 Oscar nominated short “St. Louis Superman ”(co-directed with Sami Khan), which chronicled combat rapper, activist and elected official Bruce Franks Jr. in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
“For this series, it took a lot of things to explain to people and help them understand what we were really trying to do, that we weren’t looking for characters or stereotypes,” notes Mundhra, acknowledging that the terse and sudden pauses breaks in conversation are not forced or pushed. “We tried to keep a pretty light footprint when we were shooting dates because it’s quite awkward like that without having a whole team standing, we tried to stay out of people’s sights as much as possible.”
“Indian Matchmaking” has already been renewed for a season 2, and the question that worries fans is how Sima’s various walk-in home visits might change in our age of social distancing, already a date-killer. you experienced.
“I think there could be adjustments to be made to the number of scenes we film in public spaces where things are less controlled,” Mundhra said. “But people have now gotten very smart at producing non-fictional content during COVID, so I’m confident we can do it. I think the biggest challenge now will be traveling outside of the US, which is inherently a big part of our shell, but we’re working on solutions for that.
What if “Indian Matchmaking” becomes an international series? Mundhra says: “There are 1.3 billion Indians, maybe more, scattered all over the world, from Antwerp to Zimbabwe, so it would be wonderful and very genuine for the diaspora to expand our reach. . But ultimately, Sima is our guide. She is our guideline for everything!
“Indian Matchmaking” is now available to stream on Netflix.