If you like coming-of-age stories with juicy secrets, miscommunications, intergenerational characters, and will-they-won’t-they opposites, then Mismatched just might be a good fit for you. You should know, though, that the series isn’t perfectly polished and some parts are pretty rough around the edges, but the characters are engaging and their stories are compelling. There’s a second season in the works, and I know I’m curious to see where they take them next.
It all starts with Dimple (Prajakta Koli) and Rishi (Rohit Saraf), two teenagers who, at first glance, couldn’t be more different. Rishi—a Genetically Blessed Visage for your viewing enjoyment—is all about finding himself a future wife without the help of dating apps. His parents got married in their thirties and it didn’t work out, so he thinks if he follows the path of his grandparents’ arranged marriage he’s more likely to end up with wedded bliss. He’s all about familial responsibilities, taking care of his grandmother, and setting aside his own dreams. Dimple, on the other hand, has had nothing but the importance of beauty and marriage shoved down her throat since a very young age, and she wants nothing to do with it. All she wants is to study computer programming and have a wildly successful career. Her mother swears she won’t even let her go to school if she doesn’t shape up and jump on the marriage bandwagon, which Dimple categorically refuses to do. Her father does whatever her mother wants, which is, of course, a stereotype (across all cultures) we all could do without, especially when it doesn’t really do the work to explain why a mother would be so focused from birth on getting her daughter properly married.
I’m sorry, I rewatched the 2006 version of Pride and Prejudice recently and I’m rankled by the portrayal of Mrs. Bennet as overbearing and annoying. I mean, of course she would be near a nervous breakdown about getting her daughters married while her husband couldn’t care less. That woman knows exactly what’s going to happen to those girls when they turn into women if they don’t have money and the “protection” of a man. The patriarchy is the only framework mothers have been given for centuries within which to work and then we flog them when they try to use it to protect their daughters? I’m not siding with Mrs. Bennett or Dimple’s mother, but I am saying I get super frustrated when they’re painted as high-pitched villains and the fathers are portrayed as the long-suffering, laid-back intellectual allies of their daughters. Excuse me? You don’t think these men who bumble along, humbly shuffle off to read their books, and smile wanly aren’t entirely complicit in the system that created the situation wherein their wives feel like they have to marry off their daughters before their brains have fully developed? The fuck they aren’t.
(I seem to have digressed just a wee bit.)
Geez, friends! However will these two star crossed lovers ever end up in the same place?!? Well, Dimple’s mother secretly submits her photo to the group that Rishi’s grandmother is using to help him find a bride. When Rishi sees Dimple’s photo where, unlike all the other girls, she is dressed in a casual t-shirt, no makeup, and wearing her glasses, he’s immediately and completely smitten. He says that instead of butterflies he feels an “entire zoo” in his stomach, which I understand is supposed to sound cute and romantic, but he also might want to see a gastroenterologist about that right quick!
Anyway, when Dimple gets into a summer programming program in Jaipur, which is not so far from where Rishi lives, her mother (uncharacteristically) actually encourages her to go. Rishi and his very platonic best friend Namrata (Devyani Shorey) arrange to attend the same course. Rishi shows up thinking that Dimple knows all about the whole engagement meetup, but no, of course she knows nothing, zilch, zero, which leads to her very publicly throwing a whole cup of iced coffee in his face. And you know what initial H A T E spells in rom-coms, right? That’s right, my studious viewers! Long-term L O V E! Or at least long-term will-they-won’t-they flirtation with something like L O V E!
Rishi’s bestie Namrata comes from a strict family and is harboring her own secret that will, of course, be spilled over the course of the season. And she’s certainly not the only one with a secret. Dimple’s roommate Celina (Muskkaan Jaferi), who appears to be all bravado, has her reasons for suddenly disappearing for extended periods of time and showing up late without good explanations, but will those reasons cost her some friends and social standing? Only time will tell!! The friends it might cost her are the posh, loud, bullying kids (who most certainly have their own stories to tell). There’s Simran (Kritika Bharadwaj), an Instagrammer who’s constantly critiquing everyone’s appearance but may just be her own worst critic, which is why she won’t let her boyfriend Krish (Abhinav Sharma) touch her. And Krish, when he’s not berating Dimple and others, is worried about some vulnerable patches of his own that he’s trying to cover up. The leader of their pack is Anmol (Taaruk Raina), a disabled hotshot misogynistic gamer, who is the most problematic character. Hang on. We’ll come back to him in just a moment. At the edge of their group is the American-born Harsh (Vihaan Samat), whose parents work for Apple in California. He has little interest in being in the program or in India at all, where he’s staying with his grandparents. Also in the class is Zeenath (Vidya Malvade), a 41-year-old widow who feels she’s never done anything with her life. She’s far out of her depth in the class, and not just with the coding aspect. Most of the time she has no idea what the kids are talking about and thinks that when Anmol asks if she DTF that he means Details to Follow, which doesn’t even make any sense. Use the internet more, Zeenath! Heading up their class is the too-cool-for-his-students teacher Siddarth (Rannvijay Singh). He’s the kind of guy who talks in riddles, shoots down ideas like people shoot down pheasants in period pieces, insists on making sworn enemies work in pairs, and is especially hard on Dimple because she’s clearly the sharpest crayon in the box. That last one is something I could especially do without because it reeks of old-school “he’s pulling your braids because he likes you” sexism. (Also, there’s some not yet fully developed, possibly romance-gone-bad backstory with her feminist idol and Siddarth.) Obviously, sparks will eventually fly between the only two grownups in the room. All bets are off on which way things will go with the teenagers, but you’d probably be safe wagering on Dimple and Rishi making it across the finish line in the end. (And also on me mixing my metaphors, I guess.)
The narration switches frequently between different characters’ internal monologues, which means that we get to know lots of people more intimately, but ultimately makes the storytelling confusing and frustrating to follow. There are only six half-hour episodes in the first season, which is simply not enough time to learn everyone’s voices well enough to remember who is speaking when, especially when the voiceover sometimes swaps mid-episode. Switching back and forth between Rishi and Dimple would have been plenty. Or they could have assigned each episode to the perspective of a different person. In addition, while I enjoyed having so many varied people to follow, it’s a lot to tackle in so little time, which is why I’m extremely relieved that there will be another season to delve more into all the characters’ backstories.
Now, let’s talk about Anmol. Look, I’m thrilled to see wheelchair users portrayed as assholes instead of just inspiration porn. However, the actor who plays Anmol is not a wheelchair user in real life nor does he, as far as I can tell, identify as disabled. This is a problem. Disabled parts should go to disabled actors. Roles written for wheelchair users should be played by people who use a wheelchair. In addition, Anmol appears to manipulate the school’s lack of wheelchair accessibility to his own benefit, by using it as an excuse to show up late to class or get out of other things. Sure, this could be a character trait of someone, but it also plays right into stigmas about disabled people being lazy or sneaky, which I can’t tell if this show is actually prepared to fight. It certainly doesn’t seem like it so far, which just makes them part of the problem.
Neither of these things (nor the sometimes spotty acting) were enough to deter me from watching Mismatched. It’s an earnest, funny, endearing, touching series, and you should certainly try more than the first episode before you decide if it’s a good match for you. Oh, don’t roll your eyes. You knew that was coming.