The latest in a long line of books that investigate the complexities of the South Asian marital process or at least try to is the cross-cultural romance.
We were the home of vibrant colours, yoga, and turmeric lattes. until Indian Matchmaking (2020) exploded onto our watchlists and into the consciousness of the general public. In the average Indian household, arranged marriages are a well-known and despised reality, but for the global zeitgeist, it was a culture shock unlike any other. A biodata that shows your qualities similarly to a product description on Etsy and addresses readers who compare two candidates based solely on their photos? Gasp. committing to a partner in a sacred union of matrimony for stability as opposed to companionship? What a horror.
Netflix's clever algorithms started shrewdly whirring into action, spitting up more titles for the delight, and consternation, of the average binge-watcher, even as South Asian audiences tried to push back against this one-dimensional portrayal of Indian marriages—like The Guardian's acidic op-ed that criticised the show for "treating women as baby factories"—and criticise it for "treating women as factories."
Suddenly, arranged marriages were the season's hot topic, and every genre—from rom-coms to reality TV—wanted a piece of the action. Throughout the pages of our own cinematic history, renowned directors have paid attention to the difficulties of the great large Indian wedding. One such film is Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, which was nominated for a Golden Globe (2001). However, in the hands of marketing executives who chase buzz, the subtleties and biting context of a Made in Heaven (2019) are quickly abandoned in favour of a glitzily packaged extravaganza.
Come and marvel at the schadenfreude of how Indian women are prodded into marriage on the grounds of social stability as you witness Deepti Vempati from Love Is Blind (2022) walk down the aisle in an ivory Falguni and Shane Peacock lehenga. It's a one-two punch that enables modern streamers to capitalise on the billboard-worthy pomp and pageantry of Indian weddings while also maintaining their woke credentials by spouting some social commentary as a murmured aside. Why not adore it?
Indian marriages may soon overtake chai tea as the most overused cliché in popular culture as more books and movies enter this emerging subgenre of literature. Wedding Season, a romantic comedy that follows a summer of weddings while—surprise, surprise—questioning the social expectations put on the shoulders of its protagonists to make traditional career and marriage choices, has already been released in 2022. Or maybe you want to go back in time to Regency London, where in the second season of Bridgerton, a fiery Kate Sharma had her self-worth assessed based on the fact that she was still single at age twenty-six.
And now, What's Love Got To Do With It? by Shekhar Kapur. As Lily James intends to chronicle her neighbour Shazad Latif's experiences with arranged marriage, she would like to take you from London to Lahore in search of a cross-cultural romance. Although the unusual lovers are certain to experience life-altering epiphanies, it is unclear whether the inclusion of power players like Shabana Azmi in the lead ensemble will significantly advance the discussion surrounding arranged weddings on the subcontinent.