Shekar Jayaraman, a Chicago lawyer, didn’t watch any dating shows before he joined “Indian Matchmaking,” now streaming on Netflix. “I’m not much of a TV watcher, to be honest,” he said.
Instead, Jayaraman heard about the show through a friend and decided to complete the forms and interviews to apply for it. He wanted “to find a future partner” and thought the show presented a “unique” opportunity to do so.
In the show, Jayaraman goes on two dates, one featuring a boat tour of the Chicago River with the woman he has been paired with, Nadia Jagessar.
Being on camera during the tour was a “nervous experience” for the Cincinnati native, partly because it was only his second time being filmed — the first being his earlier date on the show, when he traveled to Houston to meet attorney Aparna Shewakramani.
The cameras also changed how he and Jagessar, a 32-year-old dancer and event planner from New Jersey, interacted. On camera, they seem like a promising match, and Jayaraman said that this atmosphere was genuine at the time.
But “off-camera, we had very different dynamics and based on those dynamics we decided that we were to part ways,” he said.
To add to the pressure, the date included Jagessar’s mother, a reminder to viewers of the significant role families play in India’s arranged marriage process, which the show aims to reproduce. The Netflix series centers on a Mumbai-based matchmaker, Sima Taparia, as she strives to find partners for the show’s participants.
Since its release in early July, the show has been criticized for its colorism and emphasis on caste, with matchmaker Taparia describing a potential candidate for a date as “fair” in reference to skin tone.
Jayaraman believes that this assessment of the show is fair. “There is definitely an issue of colorism and casteism in Indian culture that needs to be addressed,” he said.
But he also added that the show is a “docuseries” that is “portraying Indian American and Indian culture for better or for worse,” and is not necessarily setting out to comment on it.
When asked whether he thought the show had been successful, Jayaraman said, “Who am I to say whether [it’s] successful or not?” He added, “Did I end up with the people I was paired with? In that scope, yeah, not largely successful.”
Since “Indian Matchmaking” premiered July 16, Jayamaran has been recognized twice, and he has received a lot of messages and phone calls. “It’s largely positive— people have been very nice and supportive,” said Jayaraman of the new attention. “It has definitely been an adjustment overall.”
Being on the show has not improved his dating life, he said, but this is mainly because he has been trying to “stay in balance” and focus on his work. While dating remains a focal point, his career and his firm Jayaraman Law are his “No. 1 priority,” and he has kept the show from getting in the way of his legal work.
“My intention is to take it in a balanced way and stay level-headed,” he said.