Every girl dreams of meeting and falling hopelessly, madly and deeply in love with her handsome Prince Charming. And, of course, not to mention, having a dream wedding and then living happily ever after with children. But what is the downfall of women who happen to be in their twenties and still waiting for their prince? The wrath of an arranged marriage happens.
Director Ruchika Muchhala documents her journey to Bombay, India as she complies with traditional Indian norms to look for a future husband in the film, “The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar.”
Premiered on International Women’s Day in New York City at The Tank Theater followed by a panel discussion, the documentary’s opening scene is Muchhala at a wedding ceremony, where she is seen desperately trying to avoid the big question her family and friends are dying to ask: When are you getting married?
As we watch Muchhala try something new and foreign to her, like online dating on India’s most popular matrimonial Website, Shaadi.com, it is the familiarity of her situation that makes this documentary so relatable.
The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar – Documentary Trailer from Ruchika Muchhala on Vimeo.
Muchhala’s quirkiness adds to the unspoken truth of how most women feel at first when and if they ever attempt to create an online dating profile, and that is the start of her journey to what should have been an arranged marriage.
It is refreshing to see the differences in thought of the other female relatives whose views on arranged marriages slightly differ from Machhala’s, whether it be looking for safety versus compatibility versus independence that takes the number one desired trait.
Not only does the checklist differ between the few young women, but also between Muchhala and her mother that strikes a much familiar and hilarious recognition many daughters share with their mothers.
From left to right: Christina Aguilar, theatre producer and playwright; Diana Whitten, documentary filmmaker; Saida Ali, women’s rights activist; Muchhala; Nadia Manzoor, writer, actor and producer; Joya Dass, TV anchor and the event’s moderator. [Photo Credit: Kamini Ramdeen]
Some of the hilarity comes from discussions about women today hopping from one live-in boyfriend to the next, or what Muchhala mother calls “sophisticated prostitution.”
Or the idea that her mother cannot ultimately live a peaceful life until her children are married within the next few years to a suitable partner. And if they choose be single, she says, she will abandon them.
Over a course of time during the film, we see Muchhala try to balance the opinions of family members while also standing her ground on what she wants in a significant other.
While her mother opts for education as the first item on her checklist, Muchhala would rather look at compatibility.
A truthful take on modern day arranged marriage, Muchhala’s documentary is absolutely worth watching and shows how one woman comes to the realization that she may actually want everything her parents want for her, meaning marriage, but on her own time.
Though it’s touched upon, the little time spent explaining the effect Bollywood has on women along with plastic surgery is one topic that deserves its own documentary.
Who is Documentary Filmmaker Ruchika Muchhala?
Many South Asian women have different views on marriage and feminism than what they were taught to think.
Muchhala said she knew from a young age she wanted to be a filmmaker.
“It’s a good thing that I’ve always known I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, since high school, so this career path was not an impromptu decision,” she said.
From left to right: Muchhala; Nadia Manzoor, writer, actor and producer; Joya Dass, TV anchor and the event’s moderator. [Photo Credit: Kamini Ramdeen]
And since high school, Muchhala said she began making her own films with a co-director and has also worked on a web series for Film.com. In addition to that, she founded Third Kulture Media and also co-directed her latest documentary, “Beyond Bollywood,” and works as a creative strategist and producer.
Muchhala began working on her newly finished documentary, “Beyond Bollywood,” six years ago.
“It looks at artists that work on the fringes of Bollywood and it’s been screened on different television channels,” Muchhala explained.
With all that she has accomplished, she said she firmly believes each person should follow their own dreams and path.
“I truly believe that when it comes to documentary filmmaking, sometimes you don’t have time to figure out if you are ready and just have to follow the story as it happens,” she said.
While Muchhala spent much time crafting her art to create empowering films, her documentary, “The Great Indian Marriage Bazaar,” released in 2011, which won the Silver Award for Best Social Issues documentary at the New York Television Festival in 2012, she said it wasn’t easy to film and star in.
“Being able to tell my own story was a really hard thing to do,” she admitted.
She added: “On top of exposing myself and my family, I was also making my first film and juggling between being in it to being the person to promote it. And [to] stand by it is something I am proud to have successfully done.”
She explores the options of arranged marriage and online dating in her film, and she concluded, they are similarities between the two.
“[It’s] all kind of a similar process in which [we] are sifting through people and sizing them up in some ways or another,” the born and raised in Indonesia and Singapore filmmaker said.
Through her research and findings from her own documentary, Muchhala said she hopes viewers will take away multiple ideas to prompt discussions among both genders regarding women all around the world.
“I think that the issue of the cultural pressures put around the institution of marriage is one that all women face and is a personal issue across cultures,” she said.
“Honestly, even when you feel raw and vulnerable, to be able to discuss the double standards women in India endure as well as other places in the world face today, there are many takeaways from being able to tell your own story,” she added.
From left to right: Christina Aguilar, theatre producer and playwright; Diana Whitten, documentary filmmaker; Saida Ali, women’s rights activist; Muchhala; Nadia Manzoor, writer, actor and producer; Joya Dass, TV anchor and the event’s moderator. [Photo Credit: Trisha Sakhuja]
In the future, Muchhala said she hopes to continue hosting events where she is able to screen her works.
“The kinds of events and screenings that I am interested in doing, whether in an academic space or a nonprofit stage are somewhere we can where we can have more engagement and panel discussions,” she said.
Catch Muchhala at the next screening of her documentary at The Women’s Education Project on April 27, taking place at The Grind Workspace in New York City.
For updates and more information on Muchhala’s projects, visit her website, Third Kulture.