Navigating Through the Web of Arranged Marriages
Reviewer: Dr Asma Sayed
A Suitable Girl, a documentary film directed by Sharita Khurana and Smriti Mundhra, provides a glimpse into the extremely complex practice of arranged marriages in India. The two filmmakers followed the lives of three young women–Dipti, Amrita, and Ritu–for the four years leading to their arranged marriages. The film moves forward without any voice-over narration. The camera follows the three women and their families and the audience is left to decide what they make of traditional matrimonial customs which work for some but not for all. As the women make decisions about their life partners, viewers come to understand their dilemmas and the sacrifices they face. As the film showcases, living at the intersection of complex Indian social dynamics where caste and class, religion, filial duty and gendered expectations, as well the desire/pressure to marry and mother, which often runs up against the goals that educated women have to pursue a career, is not easy.
All three women are educated and working in their respective fields in Indian metros, Delhi and Mumbai: Dipti is a kindergarten teacher in Mumbai and eager to marry; Amrita, working in Delhi, is a party-loving young woman; and Ritu, quite unsure about getting married, is an executive in a multinational in Delhi and she is unwilling to give up her career for matrimony. While Dipti, unmarried at the age of thirty, lives a simple lower middle-class life with her parents, both Amrita and Ritu are in their mid-twenties, from the upper middle-class, and have access to good housing, cars, and an engaging social life. As astrologers and priests are consulted and matchmaking happens via the internet and mobile phones, the old and the new collide; the impact is also visible in the way the women juggle between their desires for an independent life while trying to keep their parents and grandparents happy by getting married in a traditional way.