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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

“I don’t like funny men.” 

With that one sentence, Aparna Shewakramani became the breakout star of Indian Matchmaking – Netflix’s South Asian dating show – and divided the viewing public in half. Unconventional, unapologetic and opinionated, Aparna acquired as many detractors as she did fans. But no matter which team you were in, it was hard to look away while she was on the screen.

Today the reality TV star is busy with several new projects. Sitting opposite her on a zoom call, I am struck by how fresh faced and down to earth she seems, a far cry from her screen personality.  But that one-of-a-kind candor is still there. In an exclusive interview, she talks to India Currents about the show, her life, and her love for Indian men. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Aparna Shewakramani of Indian Matchmaking Talks to India Currents

On Indian Matchmaking

SC: I wanted to start off by talking about your journey on Indian Matchmaking. How did you end up going on the show?

Aparna: I talk about it, actually, in chapter 1 of my book, “She’s Unlikable.” Basically, I was just in LAX airport, flying standby on an earlier flight home. I had to wait for the whole plane to board. And in my boredom, I was scrolling Facebook. This was 2018 or 2017. And someone had posted: “Are you single? Are you South Asian? Are you looking for a serious relationship? If so, my sister is a casting director on a Netflix show.” 

And I was like, okay, it’s a documentary, by this serious–I think she won Sundance or Tribeca or something– filmmaker. And so, I signed up in five minutes and forgot all about it. By the time I landed, they had left a voicemail saying that they’d love to set up my audition call. And that’s how it started.

SC: Oh, that’s a fun story. What was the show itself like? What were things you liked about the show and what were things you didn’t like as much?

Aparna: (Pause) I really enjoyed taping alongside people that I knew in Season 2. It made the experience so much richer for me. A lot of people don’t notice, but my cousin Avi is on season 2. And actually there were many scenes where we were giving each other advice and supporting each other through the process. And that was really fun.

But a lot of those scenes got cut. So the viewers only see him going on a date with Sheetal. And that mixer at the beginning of Season 2 was really fun, because a lot of us got to reunite.  Season 1 was just kind of lonely. You didn’t know anybody, you were taping in a silo. And you were very isolated.  Season 2, for me, brought about a lot more introspection, and we got to talk about it together and experience it together. And that collective was really powerful.

This is a FB image of Aparna-Shewakramani from Indian Matchmaking Netflix show
Aparna-found-Indian-Matchmaking-on-Facebook-image-courtesy-Aparna-Shewakramani

SC: What was your interaction like with Seema Aunty (the matchmaker)?

Aparna: I don’t see her in Season 2.  I don’t speak to her in Season 2, and I don’t work with her in Season 2. I made it very clear that that was going to be my only condition of returning to the show. And the production was very supportive of that. I wanted to tell my story to the viewer on my terms. It was very important for me to be authentic about this experience and to align with my own values on the show. And I think I did that quite successfully.

SC: Did you feel like she didn’t represent your values?

Aparna: I mean, I hope the viewer saw in Season 1 that it was not a productive relationship. I think it was very evident that she and I did not see eye to eye. I was very polite about it. But when I saw Season 1 and saw how extremely impolite she was about her reflections. I decided that I didn’t need that in my life. No one should stick around for someone that’s going to badmouth them and their family behind their backs. 

I think it’s very important that we don’t just excuse people for what we think is generational.

Aparna Shewakramani

IC: Yes, I can see that she has a very specific way of matchmaking, which is probably a generational difference.

Aparna: Well, she’s much younger than my mother and my mother isn’t like that. So I hate to use the excuse that this is generational. I think that that’s a cop out. I think it’s very important that we don’t just excuse people for what we think is generational. That woman’s in her 50s.  My mother is in her 60s and my mother is nothing like that. So I don’t know. I don’t like that excuse.

Aparna from Indian Matchmaking show pets a goat
Aparna Shewakramani from Netflix’ South Asian dating show Indian Matchmaking on a baby goat yoga date (image courtesy: Aparna Shewakramani)

SC:  Fair enough. Switching topics a little bit, what was your best date story? If you had to tell your friends: Hey, this happened to me last night, what story would you tell?

Aparna: I’m very lucky. My funniest and most fun date ever was captured on camera in season one with Jay when we did goat yoga. Baby goats running all over you, climbing on you, cuddling with you. Peeing and pooping on you. They bring so much spontaneity and joy to the experience. And meeting someone under those circumstances just really shows you a part of their personality that you don’t get to see at a dinner table or at a bar. It is the only date that I chose on Indian matchmaking. I told the production crew I wanted to do it and they were down for it. And so, I produced my own first date. And I didn’t know it at the time, but production is in my future. I’m creating my own TV shows now.

What’s next

SC: What are you up to now? Are you going back on Season 3? 

Aparna: I am most definitely not going back on Season 3. I’m excited to watch it as a viewer.  I’m excited to see what the UK families are like. I’ve also heard Jewish matchmaking is coming out this spring. I’m excited to see how the show looks like as a franchise. And I’m excited to see the Jewish marriage experience. 

As for me, I’m currently creating my own documentary series. So I will be in front of the camera on my own terms, but I’ll also be the creator of the show, the producer of the show, have a hand in editing the show. And it will be my own story, not related to love, per se, but related to my whole life. 

Aparna from Indian Matchmaking show poses on a decorative bench
Aparna Shewakramani is creating her own documentary series (image courtesy/ Aparna Shewakramani)

SC:  An “Aparna in the city” kind of thing?

Aparna: Actually, it will be based loosely on my travels through India. It’s currently going through development. 

I’m also in the early stages of potentially writing a YA book series about my time on Semester at Sea. So, in my memoir, in chapter 1, I talk about my Semester at Sea experience. That’s basically a cruise ship where you go around the world in your junior senior year of college, with 700 other American kids and you go to class and you have finals. Every five days are in a different country.  It’s in super early development, like we’re just chatting with certain imprints about it, but I don’t mind talking about projects.

People are like, oh, you shouldn’t talk about projects till they’re done. And I feel like that’s like a big thing in our culture, and I’m not about it. I think everyone should know about the journey. If six months go by and people are like: “Oh, whatever happened with those projects?” and I go “I totally failed like”, I want to normalize that. I want to normalize that we can try things and they could pan out, we can try things and they won’t pan out. And that’s absolutely fine. We should still continue to try things.

SC: That’s a great perspective. People don’t talk about things unless they are a success and they should.

Aparna: And I also wrote my own movie! And I’m currently speaking to some people about buying it right now –it’s a holiday movie with a South Asian lead female protagonist. 

SC: You’re taking control of your own story. 

Aparna: That’s right. All I’m creating nowadays are different stories of different stages of my life or of the South Asian experience. I did it with the obvious first step, which was my memoir. “She’s unlikable”  came out in March of 2022. And it was so special, because it was the first time I got to tell my own story. And it kind of put me on to this feeling that this is what I want to do. And so I’ll do it through screenwriting. I’ll do it through movies and TV shows and books.   And that’s hopefully what I’m going to be doing. For the rest of my life.

Aparna with her memoir She's Unlikeable (Image courtesy: Aparna Shewakramani)
Aparna with her memoir She’s Unlikeable (image courtesy: Aparna Shewakramani)

On her love life

SC: What about the personal front? The million-dollar question: are you dating anyone?

Aparna: No. But I’m open to meeting someone, always. And I tell my circle, always. I’m hoping it happens organically through my network. I’m not on any dating apps. Yeah, we’ll see how it goes (laughs).

SC: You don’t like dating apps?

Aparna: I love them. I, unfortunately, after the show can’t really be on them successfully. I tried for about six months to a year when I moved to New York. And I had some really bad experiences with people who were chasing not me, but my fame, and so for me, it’s just not possible to have a positive experience on there. And so, I’m pro dating apps. I’m just not on any.

SC:  Are you specifically looking for South Asian men?

Aparna: Yes. That’s why I signed up for Indian Matchmaking. I love my culture. I love going to India. I’m obviously going to be going back and forth to India, likely for  my whole life. And I love that camaraderie and that similarity with people with men in the South Asian community. 

SC:  If you had to date a celebrity, who would it be?

Aparna: Hmm. Who would it be? I think it would be George Clooney. 

SC: Not South Asian then. 

Aparna: No, because he has good taste and he went for a very brilliant human rights lawyer. Yes, she’s also beautiful. But I think what he really went for was, who she was and what she’s accomplished, her life and her passion and her drive. She’s continued to do her work in the world and he has been an exemplary cheerleader of her work. And I think that kind of partner would be great.

“Leave room for the unexpected.”

Aparna Shewakramani
Unapologetically herself - Aparna from Netflix dataing show Indian matchmaking (image courtesy: Aparna Shewakramani)
Unapologetically herself – Aparna from Netflix dating show Indian matchmaking (image courtesy: Aparna Shewakramani)

SC: Last question: What advice would you give young women?

Aparna: Women in general tend to be more risk averse, and they become even more risk averse when they are immigrants, or when they are women of color. And what I say to them is to not always be so concerned that you’re making the absolute best choice for yourself in the long term. Just be convinced that for the short term, this is the direction you want to turn and turn that way and step into it. And if it fails, pivot again and pivot again and pivot again.

You see young women, like 15-year-olds, and they’re like, oh, I want to be a doctor, I have to go to this college, I have to take these courses, I have to do this and that. They leave no room for the unexpected. And I would say leave room for the unexpected. 

Contributing Editor Sandhya Char

S Char

Sandhya Char has been contributing to India Currents since 2002. Her work has appeared in several publications including in India West, India Post, Rediff/India abroad, ComputerEdge magazine and Shadowed...