Wedding Season, a spirited romantic comedy set in the American Indian community of Newark, New Jersey, features the full House of Netflix. Its plot is a mixture of clichés, its scenery is somewhere between useful and cheap, its acting is solidly watchable or borders on parody. It rearranges deeply familiar tropes to make them easy to listen to. It represents a community in the US with enough knowledge to feel grounded and respectful, but with enough frivolity and romance to naturally cater to a global audience. Because of or despite these things, it’s nice to watch, its entertainment places less value on how it makes you think or feel and more on how easy it is to submit to float along the emotional current.
Directed by Shanghai Noon’s Tom Dey and written by Shiwani Srivastava, it could be described as Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking series crossover with Hulu’s remake of Four Wedding and a Funeral, mixed with Netflix’s hit Never Have I Ever (one of the first shows on featuring the son of Indian immigrants as a quintessential American teenager, created by Mindy Kaling), and shot with the classic rom-com ploy of deceptive courtship. It is more than that sum, though made up of obvious parts.
We open with thirty-something Asha (Pallavi Sharda) falling asleep on her couch surrounded by a comical amount of noodle containers, running late for a meeting, spending the night in her office: she’s the stubborn workaholic, secretly lonely bitch who must be tamed. Asha has one foot in the mainstream American upstart world: She worked as a banker and left to go into microfinance, the details of which are as vaguely sketched as the advertising in Emily in Paris, the Netflix show. ambient television par excellence, and one foot in the traditional American Indian world of his parents. Panicking that her daughter will be single for her younger sister Priya’s (Arianna Afsar) wedding to Nick (Sean Kleier), a white man who shamelessly tries to ingratiate himself with Hindu Indian traditions, Asha’s mother, Suneeta (Veena Sood), poses as Asha online and sets up to date.
Ravi, lovingly played by Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi and, most recently, Hulu’s How I Met Your Father) is, on paper, everything a father could wish for: devoted son, childhood spelling bee champion , attended MIT at age 16, works for a bum startup. His profile has also been orchestrated by his parents (Manoj Sood and Sonia Dhillon Tully), who own a struggling restaurant, but he is interested in Asha (she is beautiful). She says that it will never happen, out of principle to defy the parents’ burdensome expectations (ie, happiness requires a husband). But like Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or 10 Things I Hate About You or so many rom-coms in between, there’s a fake dating plan: Asha and Ravi agree to pretend to date at 14 weddings to keep the aunts gossiping and the scheme of his parents temporarily at bay.
There are several deceptions and revelations: Ravi’s paper resume doesn’t quite line up with his real life one, Asha has her own reasons but isn’t being emotionally honest, all headed in a clear direction of happily ever after, ultimately. all harmless. Still, it’s fun to watch Ravi and Asha fall in love; Sharma can carry an entire scene with his eyes, deep pools of kindness, while Sharda vibrates with the nervous energy of balancing too many competing interests. The two have a naturalistic chemistry that makes the various cheatings seem trivial, and the chastity of their romance (sex is barely implied) seems strange and anachronistic.
True to Netflix’s romantic comedies, Wedding Season strikes a visual balance between helpful and vulgar. Dey’s direction is basically anonymous within the style of the Netflix house (although there is a Bollywood dance credits sequence). The scenes in Asha’s homeless office, in which her posh boss James (Damian Thompson) and her co-worker Tina (Ruth Goodwin) seek investors for a London headquarters, resemble Emily in Paris. The 14-Wedding montage gives costume designer, Courtney Mitchell, plenty of room to dress the cast in a variety of beautiful outfits.
The emphasis on the splendor of weddings underlines that, beyond I have never or the second season of Bridgerton, there are still very few American productions with majority leads from South Asia. I am a white American; I can’t say what makes the description of a diaspora wedding accurate, but I can say that the wedding season is mostly nice to watch; it engages with the acute elitism of parents and the strained compartmentalizations of their first-generation children without getting too bogged down in stereotypes or seriousness. What is the mandate of the genre: There will always be room for a good and lighthearted romantic comedy, and an Indian wedding setup is ready for one. As Netflix content goes, Wedding Season is on the better end of the spectrum.