Netflix’s Mismatched opens with a promise of taking you back to the old-school romance of the 60s but essentially it is a coming of age story of a bunch of kids, in their late teens with raging hormones. All of them are trying to make sense of their lives and they think they can find solutions to all their problems in the apps they have all set out to design. But can answers to real-life problems really be found in the virtual world?
The protagonist Rishi Singh Shekhawat (Rohit Saraf) has a naïve charm when he says he wants to find love in the way his grandparents did not via dating apps. (Saraf remains charming throughout the show.) He falls in love with Dimple Ahuja “his future wife” (Prajakta Koli). He has only seen her photograph once, on his grandmother’s (Suhasini Mulay) phone via some ‘religion no bar, location no bar’ matrimonial group. He is smitten by her natural beauty. Now, Dimple is driven by ambition and doesn’t fit the traditional Indian idea of ‘fair is beautiful’. She doesn’t want to get married and wants to design the next big app and become a tech giant by the time she is 25. Seventeen-year-old Dimple’s mother is already worried that her daughter is too “intelligent” for her to find a suitable husband.
Prajakta Koli at Bombaywali Summit:
Dimple gets accepted to a Summer Programming course in a Jaipur college where Rishi, whose aim in life is to not get divorced like his parents, also takes admission only to get to know his ‘future wife’ better. Dimple’s mother sends her to Jaipur from Ambala so that she could get to know Rishi. She is oblivious to this matchmaking. When Dimple and Rishi meet it is not a meet-cute. The good thing about the show is that the rest of the story is not about Shekhawat trying to woo Ahuja. However, the chemistry does develop.
Written by Gazal Dhaliwal based on the novel When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon the six-episode season is an easy binge for the weekend. The story will take you through various characters like the royal grandmother, an over-friendly neighbour aunty, spoilt brats, fashion-obsessed Instagram influencers, a student on a wheelchair, a 40-something widow (played by Vidya Malavade) back to school for a new beginning, another kid from California who enrols for the course only to avoid his grandparents and so on. It brings up various issues that the millennials are facing, broken homes, a good looking guy dealing with alopecia, a same-sex love angle, toxic mother-daughter relation, sexism, biases, etc. Then you also have Rannvijay Singh as the hot teacher who pushes his students to think out of the box with his tongue in cheek humour. Although somewhere this touching upon too many social issues is a damper.
Yes, it is not easy to pull off a show with young adult characters, and the show deals with each of its characters more or less, well. Coming from Dhaliwal one wants to know more about Namrata and her family (who is yet to come out to the world) and her feelings towards Celina, the girl with purple hair. And why is Celina, who is mistaken to be gay, hiding her economic status from her friends? The writer’s effort to normalise same-sex love is somewhere lost among the too many tracks. Similarly, one is unable to build a sympathy towards wheelchair-bound Anmol and his bitterness even when he gives a monologue on the difficulties of accessing toilets.
At the end of Season 1, Dimple faces setbacks in professional and personal spheres, but she makes it amply clear to the class bullies that she is the finest in her batch and that one’s ability as a coder has nothing to do with their gender.
Honestly, the show doesn’t push you to ask deeper questions. However, there are a few questions that need to be asked. Isn’t teenage a stage in life where one learns and moves on to be an adult? Teenage is not about making a statement. In a show for the millennials why is having divorced parents considered negative? Why can’t a girl who is working hard to fund her own education be open about it? Finally, why are we selling this dream of ‘learn code and you too can work in a hip Silicon Valley office’ to the millennials again and again?
Haven’t we had enough of Indian parents’ wanting their children to be engineers or doctors? Aren’t we grateful to movies like 3 Idiots or shows like Kota Factory being eye-openers about the students’ struggle with pressure? Then why are we now normalising this dream via popular culture? And can virtual appearances ever be real? Think about it when you are watching the show.
The views expressed are the author’s own.