It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every romance reality show is in want of a villain. In Indian Matchmaking — the Netflix show that premiered in 2020 featuring matchmaker Sima Taparia on a mission to find singletons their happily-ever-afters — it came in the form of Aparna Shewakramani.
The 34-year-old lawyer from Houston, Texas, was portrayed as a picky woman whose first dates didn’t transform into relationships, with Taparia often laying the blame squarely on her attitudes and expectations. Shewakramani was the show’s breakout star but also its shrew.
In a new book, Shewakramani puts forth her side of the story and the manner in which she was vilified. She’s Unlikeable and Other Lies That Bring Women Down (Harper Collins, Rs399) is a defence of women who are not afraid to speak their minds and state their expectations.
It’s also a personal story of survivorship. Shewakramani, who relocated to New York after the show and started a luxury travel company, speaks about the need for responsible TV viewership and the desire for finding a soulmate.
It’s common to assume that parts of reality shows, if not all, are staged. Your account is interesting because your role wasn’t staged as much as edited to suit a narrative. Since Indian Matchmaking, you have reached out to people who were in similar positions, such as Jessica Batten from (the reality show) Love is Blind. How has your view on reality shows and the so-called villains in these romance reality shows changed?
In the book, I discuss how shows are edited from the extensive raw footage taken. It is my hope that people move forward in consuming media more responsibly. We should, of course, enjoy it for entertainment purposes but we should by no means take it as absolute truth. I am more careful myself as a viewer and understand that no “character” on a reality show is as good OR as bad as their edit might suggest.
Going by your account, there was a huge disconnect between what you thought Indian Matchmaking would be and how it finally turned out. Could you elaborate on this?
While I did not fully comprehend the finished product of what this show would actually look like, I have no regrets about living out a small part of my love journey on international TV. So many people ask me if I would participate in Season 2 or any other show and I’d say… maybe. Women from around the world shared that they were empowered by my story and I believe it’s one that’s worth continuing to share.
The online hate you received for your role was quite alarming, especially when a viewer stalked you or a person sent you the picture of himself with a gun. We know there is a strong link between misogyny and violence against women. Did you expect this backlash and how did you manage it?
While I didn’t expect it, Indian Matchmaking and its aftermath made me even more resolved to live life on my own terms and to not bend to the whims of arbitrary societal milestones. I realised with all the cyber bullying and even the death threats that there will always be people who don’t like you and don’t approve of your lifestyle and your decisions. And that’s not your issue. You just always have to live a life that is aligned with your values and beliefs each day.
You have remained friends with some of the men you met on the show and they formed a WhatsApp group called ‘Aparna’s Guys’. Do you think that if it wasn’t for the show, it may have clicked with one of them?
I sincerely believe that you can meet your life partner anywhere — from a wedding to the grocery store even! The method in which I met these men was not the issue. We simply weren’t a good match. So no, I don’t think there would be anything more than friendship with these guys no matter the circumstances in which I met them.
As a financially independent, ambitious, well-travelled lawyer and now entrepreneur, do you ever feel that there are options apart from marriage for you?
I am very grateful to be surrounded by a community of family and friends that believes the same core principle as me — ultimately, a partnership can enhance your life but it is not necessary for happiness. I continue to seek a partner who will cheer lead me as I cheer lead him in all aspects of our life.