Young, privileged Indians seeking relatable content, more often than not, have to turn to the West. Barring a few shows and films, here and there, the paucity of coming-of-age films continues to be felt in the Indian scene. Along comes Netflix with Mismatched, an Indian adaptation of writer Sandhya Menon’s bestseller, When Dimple Met Rishi.
YouTuber Prajakta Koli of Mostly Sane-fame plays Dimple, and Rohit Saraf essays Rishi, the perfect foil to her small-town girl with big dreams. The initial meet-cute between these teenagers is based on a problematic premise. Rishi wants to get married young because the only successful marriage he’s seen is his grandparents’.
His parents have a failed marriage, and according to him, it is because they married ‘late’. Ambala-based Dimple wants to become the next Bill Gates, but her mom prefers parading her daughter’s photo in shady marriagemaking social media groups. Now, this blatant disregard for privacy is par for the course in the average Indian household, but the lack of repercussions or even the slightest frowning at underage marriage discussions is appalling.
After the disastrous representation of marriage in Indian Matchmaking, one would have hoped Netflix would know better than to represent the “Indian arranged marriage” scene thus. But, alas! Based on what comes after, one wonders if this marriage angle was necessary at all in the first place. Mismatched is set in a Jaipur school where aspiring app developers join a crash course in coding. The course is expensive, and it gives us an idea of the kind of people who can afford it.
We have the snooty NRIs, the Mercedes Benz-driving spoilt brats, the social media influencers, the good-natured rich kids, and of course, some outcasts, who are slightly lower on the economic ladder, for balance purposes. There is a decent marriage here between upmarket Indian sensibilities and quintessential Western tropes.
However, like every marriage, Mismatched has its fair share of ups and downs. While each character gets a definitive arc, some of them are riddled with cliches and are present to just make up the numbers. While each arc deals with a particularly important social issue, some of these are treated perfunctorily. Despite being burdened with a serious sense of deja vu, Mismatched coasts through courtesy its performances that manage to have the right amount of saccharine goodness and oh-so-cuteness.
Prajakta brings to the fore a sense of vulnerability beneath all the snide and off-the-cuff remarks. Rohit’s charm and measured smiles light up the screen. It is also impressive that each of the supporting characters — especially Devyani Shorey’s Namrata and Muskkan Jaferi’s Celina — stand and fight their own battles, and are not relegated to simply being shoulders to cry upon for the leads. Rannvijay Singha as the strict-yet-cool Professor Siddharth exudes a lazy charm that is the perfect antidote to the hyper youngness of everyone around him.
Written by Gazal Dhaliwal, Mismatched broaches topics like homosexuality, ableism, body issues, social media and real-life personas, toxic masculinity, and more. While not all of these concepts are effectively translated on screen, it is still commendable to see them broached in this space. The problem with Mismatched is that these problems aren’t overly Indian either.
Billed as a young-adult series, Mismatched is clearly not meant to be read into too much, and the issues raised in the series aren’t supposed to be universal. But when the makers get it right, Mismatched is a fun watch. One scene that warmed the cockles of my heart is a beautiful kissing scene between the lead characters. It is a depiction of the “first kiss” moment we’ve seen many times in the coming-of-age films of the West. Unlike in movies, first kisses don’t always happen in the perfect lighting, in the perfect weather, with the perfect music, and probably, not even with perfect breath.
It is nice to see Mismatched nail the portrayal of a hesitant yet unhurried kiss between two consenting partners. This scene, among many others, makes Mismatched a good answer to the search for relatable content for a certain section of Indian young adults. It is refreshing to note that an entire generation of Indians might not have to look to the West for relatable content.
And for that, and probably just for that, the lackadaisical season finale can be forgiven. It is fair to say that despite the missed opportunities and pulled-back punches, Mismatched does have its moments under the Jaipur sun. We have just met Dimple and Rishi, and I believe they have earned their second chance.
Cast: Prajakta Koli, Rohit Saraf, Muskkaan Jaferi, Devyani Shorey
Director: Nipun Avinash Dharmadhikari, Akarsh Khurana
Streaming on: Netfl ix