Tag Archives: series

Indian Couples Plan Their Own Big Fat Indian Wedding

Indians all over the globe are binge-watching the new Netflix series, The Big Day. The series focuses on big fat Indian weddings in exotic locales and I could not get enough! The Valentine‘s day launch was on point to woo the romantic notions of thousands of couples who put their own wedding plans on hold because of the pandemic.

Traditionally, marriage entailed matching horoscopes, a pinch of haldi, kumkum, chandan, coconut, dates, seven steps in front of the fire, a mangal sutra, and good luck. Over time and much thanks to Bollywood, weddings are a $50 billion industry in India. Indians love big weddings. Even some Americans desire to be married in the Indian way because Indian weddings are colorful, extravagant, and over the top.

When I was getting married, weddings used to be a family affair and the festivities revolved around setting a budget. The bride’s trousseau (sarees, jewelry, home goods) was collected from the day she was born. Once the wedding date was set, the house buzzed with decisions about the invitation card, venue, light display, music, marching band, caterers, and gifts for the groom and his family. No wedding planner was hired. Friends and relatives chipped in to prepare for the wedding. The bride and groom were not involved in deciding anything once they said yes. Everything was decided for them. They spent their days floating on clouds and fantasizing about their lives together.

I got married in the Pink City of Jaipur. Rajasthan’s havelis and mahals added to the charm. Colorful attires, music, and delicious cuisine set the mood. I wore a red and gold tissue saree I bought from Kala Niketan. I did my own makeup. My mother’s Navaratana necklace adorned my neck for good luck. My dad blew his budget because the groom’s family invited about three hundred people last minute. But he dealt with it, without flinching an eye. 

The Big Day, produced by Conde Nast India, is about avant-garde millennial Indian couples and displays the megabucks put into the Indian wedding industry. This gives us an escape out of our surreal, locked-down Zoom reality and into an extravagant social engagement. Six lavish, pre-COVID Indian weddings in exotic locales, with “breaking barriers” bridal looks, decor, food, and flamboyance!

One of the couples from the Netflix show, The Big Day.

The weddings are different because, in a rather unconventional twist, the millennial couples are in charge. They seem to have choreographed the entire ceremony to meet their style and personal flair. The couples tell us their back story. Their meet-cute, their courtship, their choice in engagement rings, their proposals, their challenges, their families’ reaction, and most importantly, the wedding preparation.

Some broke tradition by snubbing certain subversive traditions which seem to denigrate women like kanya dan and mangal sutra. Others embraced tradition by effortlessly accepting to live with extended families. There was a lot of emphasis on cross-cultural unions including a poignant gay marriage.

Some dialogues and vignettes pull at heartstrings: The Hindu priest who married two men dressed in lungis to recreate a Chennai custom said: “Hinduism is a way of life”. That sentiment brought so much solace to the newlyweds that they danced together.

I was floored with the destination of a Kishangarh fort and loved the incorporation of Sarson (Mustard) flowers and sprigs of Bajra. The use of floating sanganer block printed fabrics was a very creative idea. Everything was locally sourced and repurposed. The couples planned their wedding with such a great eye for detail, working tirelessly with vendors and creatives. The Baby boomer parents were there to offer support, happily or grudgingly, as they watched them choreograph their own wedding. 

I hope these newlyweds live happily ever after. I am hooked and will definitely watch the next episodes! My only question is – did the savvy millennials foot the bill of The Big Day?! 


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

Indian Matchmaking: It Sucks, It’s True

“They want a girl who is slim, tall, educated, and from a good family,” says matchmaker Sima Taparia, as she flips between pages of marriage biodatas. Beside Taparia, her husband laughs. “They want everything.” 

Directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Smriti Mundhra, Netflix series Indian Matchmaking offers an unsanitized glance into the nitty-gritty of South Asian arranged marriages. The show follows the day-to-activities of Sima Taparia, who navigates the labyrinthian love lives of Indian and immigrant millennials. From horoscope hurdles to culture contrasts, Taparia’s job is to find a middle ground between parents and partners, spouses, and societal norms. Because of Taparia, the end-all of a successful marriage is compromised. 

Although praised by audiences for its comedic timing, Indian Matchmaking has been subject to widespread criticism for its portrayal of casteism, colorism, elitism, and sexism. And the critics aren’t wrong. If I had a dollar for every time Taparia or a client equated physical attractiveness with being “tall and fair”, I could probably afford Taparia’s fees. (There’s a reason why almost everyone on Indian Matchmaking is rich, and it’s not by accident.) 

The show reveals deep-seated prejudices that form the bedrock of the arranged matchmaking system. Parents often request Taparia to look for a ‘good family background’ — a euphemism for a specific caste, class, and ethnic background. Colorism is a regular facet of the show. Ankita, a surprisingly likable client, is immediately labeled as ugly by Taparia for her darker skin. She prefers the likes of Pradhyuman and Rushali Rai, who are praised for their lighter complexions. 

Women above the age of 30 (case in point: Aparna) are treated like slowly rotting vegetables, who must be carted off before they cross the expiry date. And once they agree to the marriage, these women’s preferences and opinions are quickly dismissed by Taparia. Indian Matchmaking’s vision of marital compromise often targets its women, who are expected to be flexible and beautiful and witty regardless of the groom. 

“The bride has to change and compromise for the family,” says Preeti, mother of 23-year old Akshay. “Not the boy. Those are the values we were raised with.” 

Aside from the casual misogyny, divorcees and single parents are wholly ignored in the matchmaking process, perhaps because they’re evidence that relationships — “heavenly” as they are — don’t always work. “If anybody comes to me with a child, I mostly don’t take that case, because it is a very tough job for me to match them,” says Taparia, while discussing single mother Rupam. 

It’s flippant. It’s shallow. It’s the kind of discrimination that bites you where it hurts, even when packaged as a joke. 

I can understand why so many Indian Americans my age despise Indian Matchmaking. As I watched the show for the first time, I found myself deeply uncomfortable. Although presented as ‘just another reality show’, the series provided a painful lens on the worst of South Asian culture — traits that have endured generations of development and diaspora. 

The criticism is real, but it’s misdirected. With Mundhra’s keen sense of direction and focus, it’s obvious why the show is popular with a global audience. To offer an accurate glimpse into South Asian society, Mundhra has a duty to present its flaws — regardless of how ugly and misguided they may be. 

“Yes, it’s misogynistic, it’s objectifying people.. but this is what India is,” says stand-up comedian Atul Khatri. In his review of the show, Khatri concedes, “You know what India is..you cannot ignore it, you cannot brush it under the carpet.”

Taparia can do her best to sugarcoat the flaws of her clients — that’s her job as a matchmaker. But what Indian Matchmaking refuses to do is sugarcoat Taparia and the system that has made her what she is. 

A better glimpse into arranged marriages is A Suitable Girl, which came out in 2018, and might be a better watch!

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Director of Media Outreach for youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak, the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. This year, Kanchan was selected as a semifinalist for the National Student Poets Program. 

IC Interviews Abhishek Bachchan on New Prime Show

As a prelease to Breathe: Into the Shadows on Amazon Prime, India Currents’ writer, Monita Soni, had the privilege of exclusively interviewing Abhishek Bachchan via Media House. The actor shared his personal insights about the series:

Monita Soni: Hi Abhishek, we are all eagerly awaiting your digital debut in Breathe: Into the Shadows. The trailer looks stunning and very edgy! Please tell us a little about this series?

Abhishek Bachchan: Thank you! Well, we are about to release an Amazon Prime original series which drops later tonight in India! It is the story of my character, Avinash Sabharwal, his wife Abha, and their young six-year-old daughter who sadly gets kidnapped. And the kidnapper, instead of money for ransom, asks and makes Avinash commit murder in order to save his daughter. So the basic theme is how far are you willing to go for your family and for your loved ones. It’s a wonderful, emotional story. Although it has been built as a psychological thriller, I like to think of it as a family drama. I really enjoyed playing this fantastic complex and nuanced role. I’m very anxious to know what people are going to think about it. 

MK: Tell me one thing, how did you prepare for this particular role, it is a very challenging role. You have to commit a murder to save your daughter’s life. How did you get into the skin of your character?

AB: Well, there was an extensive prep that went into this role. Because, what was really nice, Monitaji, is that as compared to film, in which we get 2-3 hours to tell our story and justify it, over here we get almost 12 hours (because there are 12 episodes). So you get that much more material that you get to work on and that is very exciting for me. This is the first time you have been given the liberty of time (as an actor).

MK: Did you have to change your physical look for the role?

AB: No, thankfully I didn’t. I had to get rid of my famous beard look that I have had. 

MK: Well that suits you! Do you think playing this role has changed you emotionally, or do you look at life a little differently now?

AB: Well, you know, like I told you, the basic theme of the show is such that it does beg you to ask certain questions of yourself. For example, how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s a very nice question to ask on face value, but it is very difficult to put in practice, that’s when the problem starts seeping in.

MK: I think the kind of bonds we share in India with our family/children are special and (this role) would put a lot of emphasis on that aspect when we see this streaming. I think it’s our roots and love which make us think in a particular manner.

AB: Yes. Very possible! And I will agree with you on that.

We have admired his talent in numerous Bollywood hits for the last 20 years and we get to see him once more in a very different role. I am partial to his light-hearted roles with his own unique, heart-warming, comedic timing. But after talking to him, I could not wait to binge-watch this series and see him perform in this distinctive genre.

The trailer of Breathe: Into the Shadows, has a Quentin Tarantino like feel and the series delivers cyclic, edgy, cinematography. There is a fragile backstory about family bonds and the meaning of love and nurture is emphasized. After binging, I have replayed the interview in my mind, and now am even more impressed by Abhishek’s deep interpretation of a complex and flawed character. I can see why having more time in filming this series helped with character development which can be seen through his facial expressions and mannerisms. Abhishek admitted to reading a lot of plays at a young age and this series pulls from theater as a nod to Hamlet’s revenge.

The script tackles a myriad of awkward human behaviors linked to developmental psychology. And as a physician, I like the interplay between characters and their unscripted awkwardness. Nithya Menen’s performance as a young mother whose child has been kidnapped for several months is heart-wrenching and Amit Sadh’s performance as a poker-faced police officer, Kabir Sawant, is noteworthy. I also liked Hrishikesh Joshi’s character, as Kamble with a ”b”! 

The last episode promises that the story is to be continued…To take slight liberty as a fan, I misquote: “Breathe is like money and I can’t wait to spend it!

Wishing Abhishek Bachchan a quick recovery from COVID and the entire team of Breathe: Into the Shadows a resounding success.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

A Legacy That Belongs to All of Us

For years, Asian-Americans donned a cultural Invisibility cloak before Western audiences. And although undiscovered, their stories have unfolded silently and beautifully from generation to generation. That’s why the five-part documentary series, Asian Americans, created by an all-Asian American team of filmmakers, plays such a critical role in chronicling the immigrant experience. 

Narrated by Daniel Dae Kim and Tamlyn Tomita, Asian Americans strings together the stories of the many struggles for freedom – from the Japanese incarcerations during World War II to anti-Asian immigration laws. The storytelling, accompanied by the power of the documentary’s visual component, delivers a poignant narrative about what it means to belong to a country unconditionally, in the face of both adversity and animosity. Asian Americans features interviews with some of our community’s most celebrated individuals, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, Chinese-American journalist Helen Zia, academic expert Erika Lee,  and Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu. Their stories highlight the difficulty in navigating identity between two dichotomous cultures. 

The trailer for Asian Americans ends with the words, “and their legacy belongs to all of us!” As I reflect on my own experience as Indian-American, I realize how much I identify with these words. So many trailblazers have carved out a voice for our community — and PBS’s Asian Americans gives them the credit they rightfully deserve. 

While the documentary is impactful on its own, its content becomes more topical against the backdrop of a global pandemic. The current coronavirus outbreak marks an alarming rise in anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobic paranoia. According to a poll conducted in New York, residents have reported roughly 248 cases of racial prejudice since January. 1600 hundred attacks have been reported nationwide — a number which can only be an undercount, due to the shame and fear that contributes to such attacks. Divisive language surrounding this situation, such as calling COVID-19 “the Chinese virus” or “the Wuhan virus” turn Asian-Americans into a convenient scapegoat for unprecedented circumstances. Social media platforms document shocking tales of bigoted attacks against law-abiding Asian Americans, such as a video of two girls at Garden Grove’s Bolsda Grande High “screaming ‘coronavirus’ at Asian American students”. COVID-19’s impact on race relations is not making national headlines because of its novelty. Rather, it’s only chillingly familiar for the Asian American community.

Virtual Town Hall hosted by the Center for Asian American Media.

In a virtual Town Hall hosted by the Center for Asian American Media, producers and members of this documentary discussed what it means to be of Asian descent during an international crisis. Some of the panelists included Viet Thanh Nguyen, Amna Nawaz, Hari Kondabolu, and more. And in a critical segment of this Town Hall, the panelists pointed out how coronavirus fears play into America’s history of race-based discrimination. It was only one generation ago, for instance, that Chinese-American draftsman Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two white men in Wayne County, Detroit. While Chin’s assailants were originally charged with second-degree murder, their only punishment was $3,000 dollars and no jail time. “It reminded Asian-Americans that progress hadn’t really been made.” 

Today, every voice in the United States has the opportunity to change our country’s cycle of systematic abuse. Rather than using a national tragedy to fuel dangerous and divisive rhetoric, we have the chance to truly move forward. And Asian Americans represent that effort towards a liberated future for the next generation of immigrants. “As much as tragedy is a part of our heritage here, so is possibility.”

The documentary premieres Money and Tuesday, May 11 & 12, 2020 at 8pm on PBS. To watch the trailer, click here! 

To find out more about the Digital Town Hall, watch a recording of the panel here.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, CA. Aside from being a Youth Editor for India Currents, she is the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s news-zine The Roar. She is also the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton and uses her role to spread a love of poetry in her community.

YouTube is the Desi Mood

We gave up cable TV over seven years ago and thanks to sites like Netflix, Amazon Video, and HBO Go, we haven’t missed it at all. But, the real treat that resulted from cutting the cord is that it pushed me to seek information and entertainment on sites such as Youtube and Vimeo.

As I am sure most people know, Youtube is a universe of an endless variety of shows, shows that cater to the most niche of interests. 

For example, my son sent me a link to Primitive Technology, where a man who builds small structures using only the tools and materials that would have been available in pre-industrial times.

Primitive Technology

A friend sent me a link to Grandpa Kitchen, a channel of a man in South India who, seemingly single-handedly, cooks food outdoors on a massive scale, and feeds disadvantaged kids. As she put it, “He is so cute… his wrinkles have wrinkles!”

Grandpa Kitchen sharing Banana Pancakes

Finally, there are art and craft channels that feature everything from rangoli made using forks and bangles to reusing old newspapers to make Ganesh Chaturthi decorations. 

Watching these and other videos provides a mental health break, a creativity inspiration boost, and  pure entertainment. Even if I cannot do any of these things, it feels good to know that such creative people exist and also that the technology exists to make it available to me for free (or for the price of internet connectivity). Indeed, I would go so far as to say that at a time when the news is filled with grievances and acrimony, which in turn lead to feelings of helplessness or cynicism, videos such as these as well as their easy availability offer a sense of hope and possibility.

~~~

Sometimes I need a culture or nostalgia fix–something that is as familiar and comfortable as a walk in the old neighborhood. The collection on Youtube is vast and I wouldn’t presume to offer a comprehensive survey or even a “best of” list. However, I have found some videos and channels that I recommend repeatedly to friends and acquaintances. So, I am doing the same for the India Currents community.

Old Bollywood songs: remixes, re-recordings, new voices

  1. S. Qasim Hasan Zaidi: A Pakistani professor of engineering and an accomplished musician, his channel has videos of him playing and singing old Bollywood songs. 
  2. Mayuri: Russian performers who love Indian dance and practice it with uncommon grace. I especially like their rendering of “mera naam chin chin chu” and “na moonh chhupake jio.” 
  3. Within India, a great revival of old hits appears to be in vogue. Pran Katariya’s channel features many accomplished singers, among them Anil Bajpai and Sangita Melekar. Similar groups have sprung up in many Indian towns and cities. 

Web series

  1. Sumukhi Suresh as the Maid is sassy and authentic.
  2. Tech conversations with Dad are funny and heartwarming.
  3. Episodes of “If apps were people” are original and hilarious.

Aam Aadmi Family is like Everybody Loves Raymond, but set in contemporary India and featuring quintessentially Indian situations. It features the middle-class Sharma family consisting of the parents, their two young adult children and Mr. Sharma’s elderly mother. What makes this show remarkable is that the situations are completely believable and the characters are as likeable as the people from one’s old neighborhood. This, even while the show breaks down stereotypes through its gentle sense of humor.

So, for example, the grandmother is not orthodox at all and is completely up on the latest lingo used in texting and other apps. The daughter breaks up with her boyfriend and upends the “girl-viewing” ceremony. The grandmother never misses an opportunity to gently jab at her daughter-in-law. These and similar situations are presented with a quirky and light touch. And then, of course, there are the quintessential Indian situations such as the ever-present, well-meaning neighbor, and the relatives and friends  who drop in unannounced for tea. For me, watching an episode of Aam Aadmi Family is like a quick 20-minute trip to India without leaving my house.

The show is truly innovative when it comes to its ad model. Each episode has a passing mention of a product or service, such as a mutual fund or diabetes-friendly oil. The advertisers deserve credit for sponsoring such creative and enjoyable shows and for delivering their message in a refreshingly subtle way.

Another show that revolves around Indian family life, but pushes the envelope in doing so is “Permanent Roommates.It features Mikesh and Tanya who have had a long distance relationship for several years. When the series opens, they have moved in together and Tanya is pregnant. Alternating between serious and funny, the series offers a what-if and believable depiction of situations that would have been unthinkable a few years ago and are probably unthinkable even today except in a cosmopolitan metro like Mumbai. 

For interesting short films I recommend channels such as Pocket Films, Whistling Woods International and Terribly Tiny Tales. For stand-up comedy there is East India Comedy and various comedians performing under the Canvas Laugh Club banner.

As a bonus, here are links to two short films that have very unexpected endings: “Rishtey and “Jai Mata Di

What did you think of the above suggestions? What would you recommend? Do post in the comments. In the meantime, happy watching!

Desi Roots, Global Wings – This is a monthly column focused on the Indian immigrant experience

Nandini Patwardhan is a retired software developer and cofounder of Story Artisan Press. Her writing has been published in, among others, the New York Times, Mutha Magazine, Talking Writing, and The Hindu. 

The Forgotten Army

Based on the true story of Indian soldiers who toiled for independence, The Forgotten Army touches on the incredible sacrifices made by our army for the motherland. The first elements of the INA were born from a grassroots army led by the celebrated Subhash Chandra Bose. Despite a disadvantage in both resources and strength, they marched towards the capital in the name of freedom from the repressive East India Company. While these soldiers gave up their families, careers, and lives for an uphill battle, their contribution never received the appreciation that it deserved. The Forgotten Army, an Amazon Prime series starring film veterans Sunny Kaushal and Sharvari Wagh, uncovers a story in desperate need of recognition. Beyond the grim backdrop of a war-torn country struggling to stand on its own two feet, the series follows the love story of soldiers Sodhi and Maya. 

Along with a touching plot and unforgettable characters, the series presents a rousing title track. Composed by Pritam, “Azaadi Ke Liye” combines the soulful voices of Arijit Singh and Tushar Joshi with heartfelt lyrics by Shloke Lal and Kausar Munir. As said by Pritam himself, “It is an absolute honour to be composing music for The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye…What makes this project even more special is knowing that this has been an idea that Kabir has nurtured for nearly two decades!” The song is a fitting tribute to the Indian army, and a source of inspiration to every patriot. All episodes of The Forgotten Army are on Amazon Prime Video worldwide. For more updates, stay connected with Amazon Prime Video India on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Family Karma

The Indian-American identity is the ultimate shape-shifter — every time I think I understand the culture I’m a part of, it evolves, embraces the impossible, and shatters my assumptions. And Bravo TV’s fresh doc-series titled ‘Family Karma’ is no exception. Never did I expect to see a version of myself through the medium of reality television, despite the United States’ robust Indian-American community. But ‘Family Karma’ captures the lives of seven young NRIs navigating relationships with their traditional Desi families against a peppy Miami backdrop. Walking a tight-rope between two cultures isn’t easy, as the series trailer demonstrates. Double-divorcee Bali strives to maintain a bond with O’Malley, her long-distance boyfriend. Meanwhile, Monica struggles to forge her own identity against the stereotypes of Indian culture. As Vishal finally approaches marriage, he grapples with the expectations of what it means to be a good husband. “We hold things in, we bottle it up,” as put by Vishal in the trailer. “Until one day, we explode.” The series holds petty squabbles, unsaid divisions, wrenching heartbreaks, songs — all the perfect ingredients for reality TV. ‘Family Karma’ isn’t a blend of sugar and spice; rather, it’s filled to the brim with garam masala, and the first of its kind at that. The first episode begins at 8 pm (Central Time) on March 8th. Click here to see the trailer!