Netflix's Mismatched writers open up about building an Indian young adult world

An adaptation of Sandhya Menon’s New York Times bestselling novel, When Dimple Met Rishi, Mismatched has been India’s first teenage rom-com web series. Over a month from its release, the show has quickly climbed the popularity charts with its innocent, 1980-esque old-school drama. Starring social media star Prajakta Koli and Rohit Saraf in lead roles, it explores love, arranged marriage and the country’s booming app development space. Over a phone interview, Gazal Dhaliwal, Aarsh Vora and Sanayana Kumari, who worked on its script for six months, reveal how the show transpired in the writer’s room. Excerpts from the interview:

There are many parallels being drawn between Mismatched and shows like Sex Education 2 and Never Have I Ever...

Gazal: There are a few tropes that always come up in young adult shows. There will be bullies, there will be romantic triangles. We tried to cover a lot of challenges that young people in India face while also subtly delving into the perspectives of adults that surround them. While Sex Education 2 and Never Have I Ever are fabulous shows, they weren’t a reference point. We finished our script in August 2019 before the two shows had released

Aarsh: We were trying to invert the tropes, but by the time the show came out, the inverted tropes had become tropes themselves.

What got you interested in the project?

Gazal: I found both the leads quite unique. The guy is a true romantic and wears his heart on a sleeve. The girl is an ambitious go-getter. Traditional male and female roles were reversed in the book, which was really exciting for me. I also felt this genre has been missing in our OTT space and it would be a great opportunity to do something like this in the Indian setting.

Since the characters in the book are first-generation Indian-Americans, diaspora was a primary theme. How did you work around it?

Sunayana: We knew changing the setting would mean losing out on some things. To retain the nuances of desi Americans, we introduced the character of Harsh. We wanted to make sure that the essence of the characters from the book remained while we changed their experiences since they grew up in India. For instance, Dimple’s conflict with her mom in the show is very similar to that in the book because there are some things you can’t escape as an Indian girl.

What was the reason behind having each character narrate one episode?

Gazal: We ended up having a lot of characters with their own unique backstories and conflicts. They became as important as the leads to us. They had such diverse voices that it would have been a loss if people didn’t get to hear them.

Aarsh: We decided along the way that we wanted to go for an ensemble show rather than just a love story.

The show ends on a cliffhanger. Will there be a season 2?

Gazal: We were always hoping for a second season while writing the show. Fortunately, Netflix had enough confidence in the show that they decided to go with a cliffhanger. There are a lot of positive responses so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

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