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Documentary Film ‘What’s Love Got to do With it’ Tackles Arranged Versus Love Marriages in India

4 min read

by keertana sastry

This post was originally published on our partner website India.com:

It’s a question that definitely warrants further exploration. What makes well-travelled, new-age Indians, who have education and financial privilege, choose arranged marriages over love?

Rohena Gera’s new documentary “What’s Love Got To Do With It” attempts to tackle this question by interviewing various upper-class couples and individuals in North India as they search for their bride or groom.

As the film progressed, Gera focused on the benefits and disadvantages of two competing styles of marriage, and how the comparison helps people choose what might be best for them. Does love really make for a better marriage? Or does the arranged marriage concept work better in the long run?

Both these questions go hand-in-hand and make for fantastic hypotheses for a documentary to investigate. The film definitely provided a wealth of answers from those interviews.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It” is a good film in its own right and definitely addresses a lot of relevant issues that need to be raised and highlighted about India’s long history of putting so much importance on marriage. And much of that comes from the great and willing-to-speak subjects interviewed for the film.

We see Alisha, a woman in her 30s who had a romantic relationship while she was working in America and really doesn’t seem to have interest in an arranged marriage; Sai, who is also a working woman looking for a husband via the arranged marriage track; Maulik, who studied in America and recently got out of a relationship with a “white woman” he thought would end in marriage; Tejasthree and Kaustubah, a couple whose arranged marriage unfolds onscreen; Karishma, another woman searching for an arranged marriage; Anuj and Archana, a couple who were married the arranged way; Gopal, a man who went through the arranged marriage circuit and got divorced, and finally Farah, who had the same story as Gopal but still struggles with her divorce. And, of course, the parents of most of these people were interviewed as well.

Gera should be commended for finding people who are/were in a wide variety of relationship situations. Not to mention, finding people in India who was willing to speak about their divorce so openly must have been difficult too. The people who stood out the most were the ones who expressed their ideas about marriage, love and divorce.

Alisha will probably strike a chord with most unmarried women of her age as she truly depicted the feelings of a modern woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and choose the right person who will accept her. But her parents are worried about what people might say about their daughter who remains unmarried in her 30s.

Even today, single, adult women in India like Alisha, Sai, Karishma and Farah get dealt the most difficult hand in Indian society. They are all from families with means and yet somehow they’re not married and their ages are getting further and further away from the acceptable “marry-able” age. In Farah’s case, she also has to deal with being a woman who has been divorced, which is still a relatively uncomfortable notion in India.

A big struggle brought about with many of the women interviewed is the idea that they have all been educated in advanced ways. Many of them are working and enjoying their professional life, but their families and society believe that giving women that much freedom hinders their ability to find a suitable husband. And if they do find someone they like, they will have to sacrifice something for their future marital bliss.

The power and position still remain in the hands of the men and, unfortunately, urban Indian women know that.

The film’s humor is absolutely paramount to a documentary like this. And as stated before, the variety of stories conveyed is truly in-depth and fascinating to watch. Gera does a great job in particular by spending time on the women’s stories and dreams. After the screening, the stories were made even more interesting when Gera reveals where each person’s relationship status is today.

In the end, the main question of the film: Why do young Indians who seemingly have the resources and knowledge to make a choice choose arranged marriage over love? “What’s Love Got To Do With It” proves they don’t always do so, but it also gives us an array of reasons behind those who do make this decision. And that’s how it is in real life.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It” is screening in select cities around the country, with a couple coming up on June 3 in Plano, TX and June 4 in Newport Center, New Jersey. For more information, tickets, or to request a screening, check out www.whatslovethemovie.com.


keertanaSBorn in Texas, went to college in Missouri and now living in New York City, Keertana Sastry has a unique perspective on being Indian in different parts of America. Keertana has been working as both an entertainment, culture and lifestyle reporter, as well as a casting assistant for the film and TV industry. She loves to infuse her Indian heritage into her work and life.

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