The New Documentary 'A Suitable Girl' Shows The Reality Of Arranged Marriage For Women In India — EXCLUSIVE TRAILER
Western culture typically paints weddings as times of joy, celebrating two people and their families joining together in a shared future. Yet it's easy to forget that marriage based on love is an extremely recent, and still mostly Western, phenomenon, as marriages were and often still are arranged in many parts of the world. The new documentary A Suitable Girl, on Amazon and iTunes in late March, follows three young women in India who seek to marry for very different reasons than seen often in America, and the film's look at the intersection of modern life and traditional belief is a must-see.
In Mumbai, Ritu is concerned marriage will slow down her blossoming career, which in turn concerns her marriage-consultant mother who's pressuring her to settle down. In Dehli, Dipti, told by a matchmaker her search for love is impeded by her weight and looks, feels double the shame at herself for letting down her loving, doting family. And then also in Delhi, there's fun-loving Amrita, who holds fast to her future husband's promise that she'll be able to keep working after marriage though she'll still have to uproot and relocate to his remote hometown.
A Suitable Girl doesn't directly judge the practice of arranged marriages, or morally rank it against other cultures' traditions. Instead, the doc simply follows the lives of these three women over four years to show what marriage means for them. At the very end of the exclusive trailer below, a bride, swathed in gorgeous jewelry and fabric, unsuccessfully holds back tears as the lavish ceremony continues around her. Her mixed emotions are understandable; for many women in India, marriage can mean separation and isolation, as while men traditionally continue living with their families, women are expected to move to their husbands' homes and leave behind everyone they've known to enter into a new household as a second-tier member.
It's no wonder two out of the the three women featured in the doc aren't exactly rushing to settle down (and all three still feel the immense social pressure to marry). These are women who have greater access to education, public freedom, and opportunity than their mothers' generation did, but are still bounded by the same cultural expectations. Unless they want others to think there's "something wrong" with them, which would reflect badly in turn on their families, they have to do an arranged marriage. For these young women, it's an inescapable part of becoming an adult.
As the Suitable Girl trailer shows, there are often limited parameters for what makes a "suitable girl" in an arranged marriage— thin, light-skinned, from a good family. Most of the qualifications for women are still based on physical appearance, while the main requirement for men is wealth. Technology has only served to enhance the traditional patterns without really offering change, as young women can access online services for a broader option of potential mates, but ultimately still have to enter into an arrangement that asks them to sacrifice far more than their future husbands. The "suitable girl" too often ultimately masks the existing woman.
This conflict between personal identity and social conformity, and the relationships between two generations experiencing it, is at the heart of A Suitable Girl. Many mothers want the best for their daughters and add to the pressure, but are more aware than anyone of the sacrifices and limitations marriage imposes on a woman. They push for this day, despite knowing it will ultimately sever their daughters from their lives. The documentary quietly shows the devastation and heartbreak this can cause, along with the pain of not meeting expectations.
A Suitable Girl avoids preachiness in favor of an eye-opening, complex portrait allowing audiences to experience what arranged marriage truly means for the young women entering into it.