Indian Matchmaking creator talks controversy and Emmy nomination: 'Almost no one said it's inaccurate'
Controversy over Indian Matchmaking and its handling of colorism and classism hasn't stopped it from enjoying great success after only one season on Netflix: The dating series following Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia not only earned a second season order, but it will also vie against Selling Sunset (Netflix), RuPaul's Drag Race Untucked (VH1), Below Deck (Bravo), and Becoming (Disney+) for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Show Program at next month's Emmys.
Below, executive producer Smriti Mundhra talks about how criticism of her docuseries actually spawned enlightened conversations about matchmaking in India, especially among elders who would never dream of watching a reality show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your initial reaction when you got that Emmy nomination?
SMRITI MUNDHRA: I was completely surprised because I didn't even let myself mark on the calendar when the day the Emmy nominations were coming out. I was just dropping my daughter off at camp in the morning and started seeing all the text messages.
Given the negative feedback about stereotypes and classicism the show received, did you feel vindicated when you got that nomination?
I can't claim to know exactly why we were nominated and what forces were at play to get us that nomination. But I would like to think that the conversation the show brought up, and the way it crept into the zeitgeist, was a part of it. That conversation is really important and welcomed. It wasn't something that I feel vindicated over.
Who was this show meant for?
First and foremost, it was meant for the people of South Asia, and particularly the Indian diaspora who have lived this, for whom this experience is very familiar. Growing up, I so desperately wanted to see myself and my experiences in popular entertainment. I finally had an opportunity to make something I craved. But it was definitely designed to be accessible to an audience even broader than that. We were confident that there would be access points for people who don't know anything about our culture.
When you were first starting this, did you ruminate a lot on what the tone would be? Did you question how deep you needed to go into the tradition, whether to question the caste system and how only a certain amount of families can afford a matchmaker?
The two things that I don't think anyone can deny, whether you love the show or you're critical of the show, is that almost no one said it's inaccurate. It reflected an accurate portrayal of the subset of society, a very narrow slice. You can't make one show that's going to represent 1.3 billion people across the globe. The other thing that can't really be denied about the show is that it brought people who were not having that conversation into that conversation. You know, when mothers and daughters and grandparents and siblings are all sitting around the table and talking about things like colorism and classism and sexism and patriarchy. That's a win for me.
How long ago did you start this docuseries?
I personally started this journey over 10 years ago, when I first met Sima from Mumbai. She was introduced to me as my matchmaker. I knew early on that she might not be the one to find me a husband, but I was intensely captivated by her and her world and her business. I tried to pitch a show about her for years. And it was only in 2018 when I met with [VP of content] Bella Bajaria at Netflix did it really take off.
How difficult was it to find families who would agree to go on camera?
It was really tough because you're asking for access to the most vulnerable and personal parts of a person's life and their family. Indians are typically very private around this process, you know? So it took a lot of explaining by saying, "No, it's not The Bachelor."
Now that we know there will be a second season, will you be following up on these matches? Because I'm dying to know what became of Aparna, the hard-to-please attorney from Houston.
Everything's on the table!
Season 1 of Indian Matchmaking is currently streaming on Netflix.
Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Emmys analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's TV shows and performances.