Setting the stage for a multitude of cliches right off the bat, Mismatched tackles two well-loved Indian themes – arranged marriages and student life. At the centre of the story are Dimple (Prajakta Koli) – a ‘gamer girl’ who dreams of pursuing coding while she dodges her mother’s attempts at getting her married – and Rishi (Rohit Saraf) – a hopeless romantic whose worst fear is ending up like his divorced parents. What follows is a sweet, sometimes tumultuous story of them being set up through a WhatsApp group, and subsequently taking up an app building course at a prestigious Jaipur university. The plot is generic, and effectively delivers the ‘boy meets girl’ and ‘opposites attract’ tropes it promises.
The two protagonists then encounter a variety of people at their course. Individually, the characters fit perfectly into the stereotypical moulds that have been created in popular culture, especially when it comes to the women of the show. The popular girl obsessed with her Instagram profile, the blatant misogynist with a tragic past, the quirky gamer girl who ‘isn’t like other girls’ because she doesn’t care about her looks. It’s been done before, a thousand times over, highlighting the need for fresh takes on characters at every instance. What swiftly rescues Mismatched from becoming a typical coming of age series is how each of these run-of-the-mill students have been woven into the plot. Each episode begins and ends with brief narrations from a character, giving us an insight into their perspective. There’s a certain charm to this approach that leaves you wanting more after each episode.
Every character brings their own personal story to the massive potluck that is Mismatched, and with so much going on, it’s easy to get lost at the buffet. But even though it feels like several conversations have been opened up simultaneously, the first season is just the beginning. There is much to be explored for each of the characters and the plot, and season 2 will hopefully do just that. Currently, however, it only tiptoes across the surface and does not go any deeper.
The portrayal that I found myself judging most critically, for obvious reasons, was that of Namrata (Devyani Shorey) – Rishi’s best friend, who is gay and only out to him. Her feelings for another girl and how she navigates through them has been handled with an endearing normalcy. For the most part, however, Namrata remains a cheerleader on the sidelines of Dimple and Rishi’s love story. Despite this, it was genuinely refreshing to see a sweet, stereotype-free take on a gay character. The first season leaves off at a crucial point for Namrata, and how they choose to take it forward from here could make a huge difference from the standpoints of appropriate representation and doing justice to the character.
At several points through the course of six episodes, Mismatched successfully finds the right opportunity to address important issues. The ableism that Anmol (Taaruk Raina) faces both inside and outside the institute is something that is rarely, if ever, discussed so explicitly in mainstream media. The show manages to balance its cheesy and humorous aspects with more personal and meaningful stories of grief, pain, anger, and insecurity.
All in all, Mismatched does a pretty good job as a sweet, feel-good entertainer. The show’s greatest strength is its storytelling, and Gazal Dhaliwal carries it effortlessly with her writing. I dove into it prepared for cliches, and despite finding them irksome at some points, actually enjoyed how it ultimately came together. However, season 2 needs to find its ground more firmly instead of flitting superficially between narratives. Ultimately, if you’re someone who likes a light-hearted rom-com, Mismatched does not disappoint.