OIFF Review: 'Much Ado About Knotting'

Much Ado About Knotting
(India, 55 min.)
Written and directed by Geetika Narang Abbasi, Anandana Kapur
Arranged marriage is nothing new to India, but the longstanding tradition in the nation has exploded into a most unusual industry. Matchmakers are no longer old widows visiting potential brides-to-be. Much Ado About Knotting offers a humorous look into the business of arranging marriages that takes an old fashion and gives it a flair of Costco capitalism.

Tying the knot in the business is the strangest form of courtship one will ever see. Intimacy, mutual attraction, and true romance are foreign entities. Instead, parents take their children and put them on display at public conventions that seem like something between an auction and a cattle show. Stats are given, skin tone is noted, and parents rhyme off the silly expectations they have for the ideal bride or groom. Everyone seems to want a rich, well-to-do, upper-middle-class corporate professional, and everyone is terrified that a true self will be revealed somewhere along the clinical transaction.

Much Ado About Knotting follows three stories of Indians finding their way through the matchmaking business: one a woman, the other a man, and the third a pair of nitpicky in-laws searching for the right bride for a family member. Each subject explains the stressful trials of playing along with the matchmaking game: cosmetics, for example, are of greater interest than personality, while the controversy of comportment at pre-screenings and interviews is a worrisome affair of betraying one’s class and status. Everyone seems to want to use the tradition of arranged marriage as a vehicle to find a life of opportunity in America, but nobody seems to find the exodus of talented youth a problem. In fact, it’s a selling point when a prospective bride or groom has relations in America.

Some funny bits of filler show the added businesses that have branched out from the matchmaking market. Etiquette lessons teach young Indians how to impress by eating a sandwich properly with utensils. Corporate entities amass databases of information on the families of marital candidates: caste, income, property, even the make and model of vehicles are catalogued so that marriage can be arranged as efficiently and cleanly as possible. There are even private detectives that make a business by spying on future mother in laws so that a bride knows what she is getting into! The private affairs of a potential father in law, however, are nobody’s business. The anecdotes of Much Ado About Knotting drag a little too long, though, for this look at the ins-and-outs of matchmaking feels stretched even with its running time of fifty-five minutes.

As the first non-North American film to screen at the Ottawa International Film Festival, Much Ado About Knotting admittedly marks a note of disappointment. The documentary is entertaining, yet more insight into the farce of finding the perfect match might simply be found by trolling the personals oneself. Much Ado About Knotting chronicles an amusing look at the business that will undoubtedly seem backwards and peculiar to Western audiences, but the film approaches its subject uncritically and leaves a slight tale about a newfangled market. Not once does Much Ado About Knotting make any mention of love. Perhaps that might be the answer that the subjects—and the film itself—need to tie the threads together into an effective knot.

Rating: ★★½ (out of ★★★★★)

Much Ado About Knotting screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival October 4