Aparna from Netflix’s ‘Indian Matchmaking’ on Biodata vs. Reality

Aparna Indian Matchmaking Featured Image
Pictured: Aparna Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix Season 1, Episode 2 "I’m Trying My Best!"

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When I first told my friends that I would be speaking with the breakout personality of Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking,” Aparna from Houston, their questions were as follows: Why does she hate comedy? Does she not know how to relax? What’s the difference between being picky vs. thinking you’re better than everyone else? Was she portrayed accurately, in her opinion? Also, what’s the deal with being a lawyer if she hates it?

Admittedly, I had formed very strong opinions of a person that I had just met through TV, much like my friends, and had many of the same questions. As I binged one episode after another, my perception of Aparna slowly changed—it was as though I, as the viewer, were dating this version of a woman that I still wasn’t too sure about at the end. What was clear to me, though, was that she made quite an impression. Her depiction on-screen was perhaps the personification of her biodata that we had the luxury of assessing in our TV boxes, phone screens, or laptops. And damn, were we all quick to judge.

Like all biodatas, we only have one version of the truth; we don’t know the whole story. Aparna, in the straightforward Aparna fashion that we’ve come to love (or hate), reminded me during our Wednesday afternoon Zoom call that the story arc presented onscreen is very different from the real-life arc she experienced.

“You’re watching a heavily edited version of our stories, of the hundreds of hours of footage that we filmed. The point of the show is to talk about Indian matchmaking and arranged marriage, and how the seven individuals progress through meeting with Sima Aunty in the process.”

That is to say, the show was never meant to be about the specific cast members, characters, contributors, or whatever you want to call it. In a space that is dominated by Western ideals of dating, marriage, and relationships, “Indian Matchmaking” was meant to be merely a glimpse into a different perspective. But a glimpse, like our quick snapshot of who Aparna is from the five out of eight episodes, comes with a lot of judgment, opinions, and thoughts—one major critique being that the show had glossed over topics such as colorism, casteism, sexism, and classism among others.

“The show couldn’t touch upon all the issues in such a loaded area of our culture, which is our understanding of marriage. It was important to me that they showed different archetypes of people, which is what they are, to start the conversations that could be beyond matchmaking—like, ‘what is a woman’s voice in a workplace?’ ‘How does she assert herself?’ ‘How does she ask for what she believes she deserves?'”

[Photo Source: Screenshot/Netflix]
As an Indian woman who grew up in a community where women’s voices weren’t championed, I was stunned at how sure Aparna was of herself. The Aparna I was meeting through my laptop screen was very similar to the person I saw on screen—there was no pretense or front on who she was. The difference this time is that I got to interact with her, albeit virtually, and therefore was able to see the layers that were lost in translation. On-screen, I saw an edited version of a woman who knows what she wants, how she wants to live her life, and most importantly, who she is. A part of me reacted strongly because I thought that it was maybe too audacious for someone to be so unabashedly herself. Over Zoom, I saw that same woman but this time, I realized that I, along with my friends, was carrying judgment ingrained within us from a young age that a woman who voices who she is and what she wants is too much. Perhaps we reacted so strongly because we weren’t able to do that for ourselves.

“I was privileged to be able to stay true to myself. I went to the top schools in America. I have amazing friends from schools who expect us all to be growing and to be following our dreams. These are entrepreneurial women and men who are career-driven. These are people who think you should continually grow and learn outside of your career. That’s the bubble I live in, and it’s very easy to be this version of myself, or to be myself. It’s not only expected of me but also applauded. I feel very lucky for that. I know a lot of women don’t have that—they don’t have families or social structures that support that.”

[Read Related: ‘Indian Matchmaking’ Creator Smriti Mundhra on the new age of Traditional Indian Marriages]

Her comments made me realize something deeper—it is still considered a privilege to have the space to be who you are for a woman, but very much a given reality for a man, particularly in the matchmaking space. As someone who is still figuring out her own voice, I felt that my quick judgment of Aparna from my binge-watch was very much rooted stemming from the societal voice speaking in my head. But being able to speak to Aparna, woman to woman, I learned that I had much work to do within myself.

Aparna Indian Matchmaking Image 4
[Photo Source: Screenshot/Netflix]
It was then surreal to hear that Aparna herself never went on the show with the intention to empower anyone or give anyone to aspire towards. And yet, women from around the world are flooding her DMs with their own stories of experiences of toxic relationships, and societal and cultural expectations. Just being herself was empowering enough.

“It’s so beautiful that [these women] could share that with me and that the show resonated with them in a way that would change their lives for the better. I never say you need to be like me. You need to be yourself  and authentic to yourself and try in your world and sphere to stand up for yourself the best you can. What that looks like might look differently than what it looks like watching me on television.”

As a full-time lawyer who is now juggling a side business in the midst of a pandemic, Aparna has faced her share of criticism. Her clear vision of the type person she wanted to marry elicited Sima aunty’s continual assessment of her as being negative and stubborn. Many viewers even commented that her 55-minute dates were maybe used to quickly weed out the ones she didn’t want.

“I think I’m a lot more thoughtful in what I actually want in the person that I’m going to be with, and that was not reflected on the show. I could’ve been a more fleshed out character but I think everyone will say the same thing. But, like I said on the show, I like me. So when men reject me or Sima Aunty rejects me, it doesn’t matter. I’m working on my growth everyday, and that’s the best I can ask of myself.”

Her portrayal also begins a conversation about the way we consume TV, bringing us to another critique about what non-Indian audiences would take away from the show. But for her friends and colleagues who aren’t Indian, Aparna believes they saw “Indian Matchmaking” as a peek into the process of matchmaking, rather than a whole portrayal.

“I’ve talked to people in Malaysia, Iceland, and France. Everyone has their own take on the show based on their culture and their understanding of the world. It has sparked them to consider their own cultures and how they view marriage. It hopefully helps them begin these conversations in their homes and workplaces. Maybe it’s not classism but it’s socioeconomic classism. It’s educational elitism.”

[Read Related: In ‘Karma’, Michelle Khare Finds Empowerment as a TV Host]

Apart from speaking with friends, family, and fans from around the world who DM her, Aparna is now constantly giving three or four interviews a day. It seems as though she has taken quite nicely to the newfound fame, or notoriety. She is also up to date with all the memes circulating around social media, such as that of the Bolivia salt flats and her perplexed facial expression, which, to be honest, reflected mine during most of my experience bingeing the show—especially when it came to Geeta, the other matchmaker featured on the show. Even though Aparna and Geeta never met, Aparna also harbored similar feelings.

“You were given these false hopes that Geeta would be different. I remember her telling Ankita that she should move to Timbuktu should her husband have a need. Give up your business. Compromise. Be flexible. That’s a conversation you can have with someone but it’s not a must unless you really want to. It should not be a matchmaker saying, ‘Hey, you’re a woman, give up your business and life.’ Just because you speak differently or can articulate yourself in a different way, doesn’t mean that your thoughts behind it are any different.”

Ankita Aparna Indian Matchmaking
[Photo Credit: NETFLIX © 2020]
In fact, Aparna has actually been speaking to Ankita every day since the release of the show. Aparna did not learn the names of the other contributors until the launch, and she has found a new set of connections even if they didn’t lead to the intended connection—marriage.

“I talk to Manisha, Rashi, Nadia. We check in on each other. I talk to Dilip, Jay, and Shekar. I talk to Shekar the most. And sure, I’m not in a relationship with any of the men but man, are they awesome. I got these friendships out of the show and I still consider that a success. I’m glad that they’re on my team and that I’m on theirs.”

At the risk of coming across like an aunty, I quickly followed up by asking Aparna if she had connected with anyone lately, or if she had been going on any 55-minute FaceTime dates. But alas, she deleted all her apps once lockdown became a reality. She is spending her time and energy on her passion project instead, a travel company called My Golden Balloon.

“A lot of people have been hard on me for not liking being a lawyer. I don’t see what the big deal is. I think it’s a very millennial way of thinking—if you don’t like your job, you should quit it right away. What are you doing really with your life? And you’re like, working in my job… and I’ll find other places in my life for my love and creativity, and energy and family. For me, it’s Golden Balloon.”

Aparna Indian Matchmaking Image 2
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix]
Aparna started the company a year and a half ago with the hopes of doing curated tours. In February, she and her business partner had actually planned the first trip to Jordan. It was during their stop at the airport in Frankfurt on their way home that Aparna and the other passengers noticed that masks were on and the temperature checks were happening. Immediately, the company had to pivot.

“Different countries are opening at different times now, and so we started these three dollar pdfs that are two pages long that are supposed to be a supplement pocket guide. It includes information like ‘where would Aparna eat? Stay? Explore? Pamper herself?’ It’s our way of sharing our love for travel for people whenever they are comfortable traveling.”

While an Aparna-approved guidebook sounds like the perfect travel companion, Aparna has moves of her own that she would like to make. “I’ve always loved New York. With my law license, I was kind of stuck in Texas. It’s time to have a change and go to a city that is much more walkable, condensed, and urban. It’d be nice to have a culture in the corner of every street and enjoy that change and energy. We’re not stuck, we don’t have to be in the same place always.”

Her last words resonated with me strongly: We don’t have to be stuck in the same place always. This especially holds true when it comes to our opinions, judgments, and thoughts. Indian Matchmaking may have been met with divisive responses but it did something big. Apart from introducing us to Aparna, it instigated conversations about the nuances of matchmaking, the issues within our own communities, and even more so, about how we can hold ourselves accountable within our roles as viewers.

By Nimarta Narang

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Nimarta grew up devouring Hindi movies, coming-of-age novels and one too many psychology textbooks. … Read more ›

Anita Verma-Lallian Talks Camelback Productions and the Need for Greater South Asian Representation

Camelback Productions

Award-winning commercial real estate and land consultant in Arizona, Anita Verma-Lallian, is venturing into the world of entertainment with her newfound production house, Camelback Productions, making her the first South Asian female in the state to do so. Verma-Lallian is a woman used to paving her own way, and now she’s committed to doing it for future generations.

[Read Related: Anita Verma-Lallian Launches Arizona’s First South Asian-owned Film Production and Entertainment Company ]

Through her production company, she aims to contribute towards greater South Asian representation in mainstream media with a focus on storytelling that’s relevant to the community. In a conversation with Brown Girl Magazine, the real estate maven spoke about what inspired her to shift from investing in land to investing in creative dreams.

Tell us more about Camelback Productions and what your hopes are for the company?

The intention is to help communities that are not being represented in the media. As you know, there are a lot more streamers looking for content so that presents an interesting opportunity for people to tell stories that are otherwise not being told.

For us it’s important to tell these stories that aren’t being told, and tell them in the way that we want them to be told. With South Asians, for instance, the roles typically given are stereotypical. There are only four or five roles we are playing repeatedly. I want to show the South Asian community and culture in a different way. 

You come from a business and investor background. I am curious to know what catapulted your interest towards establishing a production company?

Good question. There were a few things that inspired my interest. I was looking to diversify the different opportunities we offered our investors. We’ve done a lot of real estate, so we were overall looking for different investment opportunities.  And then, at the time when I started exploring this, the real estate market was in this wait-and-see for many people. 

Everyone was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next. There was a slowdown at the end of 2022 which is when I started looking into this more. Film seemed like it was kind of recession-proof and not really tied to what’s happening in the economy, which I thought was refreshing and exciting.

Also, overall, I observed what was happening in the industry with there being a push to see more South Asians in the media. The timing felt right, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.

What kind of content are you looking to create?

Good stories and good quality scripts. We are looking at all types of content — movies, docu-series, comedy shows, and reality shows. We’re open to anything that has a good message. 

On a personal level, what hits home for you with this production company?

Growing up I always loved film and TV. We watched a lot of Bollywood movies because that’s what we related to and I always loved that. But I did feel there wasn’t a lot of representation of people that looked like me. Being able to change that — especially after having kids, and a daughter who wants to go into film — is important for. It’s a contribution for future generations. It’s important to me that as they grow up, they see people that look just like them.  

Is there a significance to the name Camelback?

Yes! Camelback Mountain is a very iconic mountain in Phoenix. It’s one of the most famous hikes we have here and a relatively challenging one.

The significance is being able to overcome challenges and barriers. I have a nice view of Camelback Mountain and it’s something I look at every day, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It has a very calming and grounding presence.

To me the mountains signify being grounded and not being able to be moved by external factors. That’s what I want this production company to be!

What would you advise people interested in entering the entertainment industry?

The best advice I would give someone is to align yourself with people that you know are experts in the industry; that have a good track record. Learn from as many people as you can. I learn as much as I can, talk to as many people as I can, and I study different things to understand what was and wasn’t successful.

Photo Credit: Claudia Johnstone

By Rasha Goel

Rasha Goel is a 2X Emmy-nominated television host/producer and international correspondent. Her talent has led to opportunities such as giving … Read more ›

Anya Banerjee: The New Face of NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’

Anya Banerjee
Anya Banerjee

Born in the US and raised in New Zealand, actor Anya Banerjee made her television debut, this past Sunday, in season 10 of NBC’sThe Blacklist.” She is seen playing the character of Siya Malik, daughter of former task force member Meera Malik who met with an untimely death in season one.

[Read Related: Sri Rao and the Future of South Asian Diasporic Cinema]

An MI6 agent, Malik is hoping to learn more about her mother and the work she did with Raymond Reddington. Her character is a sharp, inventive, fearless spy with a knack for spotting what motivates others. Even though this is her first-ever television role, one can see how deeply involved Banerjee is in the character, pushing you to connect back the dots to the history her character comes with. In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Banerjee talks more about her journey into acting, what drew her to the role of Siya and what should the audience expect from the 10th and final season of the show:

People, in general, are very influenced by the content they consume. Was there a specific film, play, or television series that got you interested in acting?

As the first in my family to be raised in “the West,” just being in the world involved performing some kind of identity. Film and TV acted as a third parent in that regard. I’m the first actor in my family, but have wanted to do this since before I can remember. Watching “Bend It Like Beckham” when I was in primary school showed me there was a place for South Asian female leads in Hollywood. I’ve also always been drawn to media with some element of the fantastical. I loved Baz Lurhmann’s “Moulin Rouge” because it brought the theatricality of the stage to the screen in a spectacular way. I remember being tickled by the cultural fusion in the film. It reflected my own sense of being at the intersection of various cultures and the appeal of escaping into a made-up world.

Were you a part of any productions in school or in college that influenced you?

I did a lot of singing and dancing as a kid; Indian dance-dramas at Durga Puja and yearly ballet recitals. We did musicals and Shakespeare productions at secondary school and that’s also when I started working in Auckland’s professional theatre scene.


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A post shared by Anya Banerjee (@anyabanerjee)

What were some of your favorite roles while pursuing the acting program at Columbia University and how did they prepare you for your television debut?

Casting director James Calleri headed the acting MFA program at Columbia when I was there and his on-camera classes really set us up for success in TV. We also had the tremendous good fortune of being Ron Van Lieu’s first cohort at Columbia. The master acting teacher directed our thesis production of “Where Do We Live?” by Christopher Shinn. I played Lily, a British party girl who has to be physically and emotionally vulnerable in the play. With the help of movement coach Sita Mani and intimacy co-ordinator Alicia Rodis, I gained the confidence to take more risks in my acting. Now I’m playing a very different Brit with a totally different background and disposition but I’m using many of  the same tools I used as Lily to feel grounded as Siya.

How would you describe “The Blacklist” to people wanting to learn more about the show?

Action-packed, full of intrigue, and endlessly entertaining. There’s a reason this show has been killing it for a decade and that’s the high caliber of the cast and crew, as well as the inventive and topical writing that keeps fans coming back for more. Audience members who’ve watched from the beginning will appreciate the full circle moments that my character ushers in — I play the daughter of Meera Malik, late CIA agent from season one so my storyline is a bit of a throwback. But new viewers can use me as an access point into the world of “The Blacklist” as Siya uncovers it, bit by bit, as a newcomer herself.

How did you prepare for the role of Siya Malik and how similar are you in real life to the character you’re playing on screen?

Some of the first things I had to learn on the job were stunts and how to operate a firearm. You’ll be seeing a lot of Siya kicking butt. The gun stuff was entirely new for me but I took to it very quickly and my background as a dancer helped with the fight scenes. Something I identify with in Siya is her resilience. She’s turned the tragedy of her mother’s death into the fuel that led to her own career as an MI6 agent, overcoming obstacles and others’ underestimation of her. That’s the kind of fire inside that  I really admire and hope to practice in my own life.


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A post shared by Anya Banerjee (@anyabanerjee)

Are there certain roles you feel suit you better?

I love characters with complex inner worlds — ones who are deeply flawed and may even be outcast from society, but who rise above the odds to carve out space for themselves and the ones they love.

Do you feel South Asians are still pigeonholed into certain roles or has it gotten better?

I think things are a lot better than what I grew up seeing in the early 2000s. “Sound of Metal,” for example, is one of my favorite movies because Riz Ahmed’s riveting performance has little to do with him being South Asian and everything to do with his commitment to an expertly crafted role.

Is there a dream role you would want to play?

On stage, someone as volatile as Emma from Duncan Macmillian’s “People Places & Things.” On screen, someone as funny as Amina in “We Are Lady Parts” or as brave as the title character in “Kimi.”

You have worked with many talented individuals. Is there anyone still on your list you would want to work with in terms of directors, actors, actresses, and others?

Parminder Nagra, obviously! As a Kiwi, it would be a dream come true to work with Jane Campion or Taika Waititi. I’m most excited to form meaningful relationships with artists daring enough to challenge the status quo.

You describe yourself as a “Kiwi-Bengali in the Big City.” How have you felt as an Indian American, raised in New Zealand, coming into the acting world?

There’s been a lot of juggling aspects of my triangular identity. A lot of the times in this industry people want you to be just one thing, or maybe two, but three’s pushing it! The reality is that we live in a globalized world. We have to make room for cultural nuance in the media. So maybe I’ll lean into my American side today, turn up the Kiwi tomorrow, and speak Bengali with my Indian parents on the phone. All are valid, authentic expressions of myself and reflections of the real world.

[Read Related: Manish Dayal on ‘The Resident’ & Telling Stories During and About a Pandemic]


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What advice would you give to your younger self?

It’s okay to be a chameleon — in fact it’s a gift. Adapting aspects of your personality and identity to different circumstances is part of being a multicultural artist.

What is something not many people know about you?

I can be a little introverted and have struggled with social anxiety since I was a teenager. I had a bit of an emo phase then, but have since learned to take life less seriously and it’s made me a lot happier. My loved ones nurture and embrace the goofball in me. If you get to know me, I might let you see my inner clown!

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview?

Take pride in your difference and embrace the outsider in you. It’s your superpower. There’s no one right way to be a Brown Girl so get out there and be whoever you want to be!

Photo Courtesy of Ted Ely

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›

How ‘RRR’ Changed the American Perception of the Indian Film Industry

As a South Indian American, I am aware of how non-brown Americans view the Indian film industry. One word: Bollywood. Bollywood and the South Indian film industry has always been lumped into the same category as Bollywood, despite the diversity. For Indians, South India is obviously different from North India, but non-brown people assume it would all be the same. This extends beyond Indian cinema; feeding into assumptions regarding other aspects of culture like language, food, and so on. People tend to assume all Indians speak Hindi or eat tikka masala at home rather than trying to understand the diversity of Indian culture. With time, especially with the help of social media, there was more accessibility to understanding the differences among these cultures, yet nothing truly spread across the globe. Then came “RRR.”

[Read Related: On the Road to the Oscars: M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose’s ‘Naatu Naatu’ Redefines the World’s View of Indian Music]

RRR” is a Telugu film from Tollywood. This South Indian film has become a worldwide sensation with its incredible visual effects, captivating plot, and catchy music. I was blown away by the reception this film got in the United States, especially from American film critics who were all praise. What impressed me the most was how more Americans clarified it was not a Bollywood film, and differentiated it as a Tollywood film. The number of people taking the time to learn the difference between Tollywood and Bollywood might seem simple, yet meaningful, nonetheless. South Indian films are incredibly underrated and are finally getting the attention they deserved. It is incredible to see the celebration surrounding the film and what it represents and means to this community and how we get to share it with the world. The hype was real, and then the awards season began.


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The Golden Globes top the list of some of the major awards for television and film and it was amazing to hear that “RRR” had been nominated in two categories for this award. Funnily enough in my own world, it aired on my birthday. Then came the moment when Jenna Ortega said “Naatu Naatu, RRR” and the song played as M.M. Keeravani approached the stage to accept his award. This song became the first Asian, not only Indian, song to win the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. The 80th Golden Globes saw many wins for the Asian community with films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “RRR.” There is something beautiful about being South Indian in America and watching a South Indian song win an award in America on one’s birthday. There is a joy in getting to tell my friends, both brown and non-brown, about it and share the song, “Naatu Naatu,” with them. Sure it is Indian, but it is just a bit closer to home, and that closeness stands with a beautiful meaning. When it came to the Critics’ Choice Awards, it was touching to hear about how S.S. Rajamouli grew up with the encouragement of creativity and storytelling. It honestly inspired me to continue my own projects; I hope to see them prosper as well. 

[Read Related: Sri Rao and the Future of South Asian Diasporic Cinema]

After the win at the Golden Globes, the Oscars became highly anticipated for the Indian community, especially when the nominations for Best Original Song were announced. Of course, when the familiar title appeared once again, a victory felt within grasp. “Naatu Naatu” had a couple of big moments at the Academy Awards ceremony: the performance and the win itself. The performance was introduced by the absolutely phenomenal actress, Deepika Padukone, who, too, is s South Indian. Her introduction of the song brought forward the context in which the tune takes place, that is during 1920 under the British colonization of India. She reminded all of us of how significant the song was along with its catchy beat. When it came to the announcement of who won Best Original Song, it was a first-of-its-kind victory given that it was the first time an Indian film won in this category. The speech made by M. M. Keeravani was beautiful as he sang to the tune of “Top of the World” with his own lyrics to take in the moment. It was certainly an extremely proud day to be Indian anywhere in the world, and especially to be a South Indian.

Seeing non-brown folks acknowledging the diversity of Indian culture has been beautiful to witness. The cultural pride of saying an Indian film, specifically a South Indian film, won the Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and two Critics’ Choice Awards so far is an absolute joy. Seeing South Indian representation, especially during the awards season, is inspiring for brown creatives. This has been a time of great cultural pride in the South Indian community, and as a South Indian creative myself, I am honored to see it.

Photo Courtesy: Netflix

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By S. Kavi

S. Kavi is a South Indian American writer, poet, and artist. Her work involves the exploration of South Indian culture, … Read more ›