‘Mismatched’: Stories of youth and love

Design: Hrishik Roy

Mismatched, the popular Netflix series, is a young adult rom-com loosely based on the plot of Sandhya Menon's book, When Dimple Met Rishi (Simon Pulse, 2017). While the series is reminiscent of the text following the lives of almost similar characters, it makes a fair share of improvisations, and the result is a YA fan's dream come true as the series greatly outperforms the book.

Truth be told, I read the book after discovering the show's trailer back in 2020, but following a bookworm's rule of thumb, I did not start watching the show until I finished the book.

I found that while the book is a short read, it does not compromise from the grandiose Bollywood style drama that readers usually expect with Indian protagonists set in a foreign background. The book follows two teens in a tech summer camp–Rishi (played by Rohit Saraf in the series), who is on a quest to find the perfect partner, and Dimple (Prajakta Kohli in the series), who is solely focussed on her career. What unfolds is a story of self-discovery and first love, extending its warmth through the pages of the novel.

I think what made this usual story very interesting for me was the character development. I believe characters to be the heart of any work of fiction and two such characters reside in my mind rent-free. Back when I first read it, Augustus, from John Green's The Fault In Our Stars (Dutton Books, 2012), made me fall in love. And now, Rishi from Mismatched, made me believe in love. Whether it was his innocence in the book or his charms in the series, the character single-handedly makes the story better; he says that he is just a silly boy in love, but turns out to be much more layered. 

With the introduction of new characters, the series scores better on representation than the book. Be it LGBTQ+ depiction, physical disabilities, eating disorders or other mental health issues, the show presents the rawest forms of human emotions. While the introduction of all these characters to the show made the plot much more chaotic and difficult to connect, the cast was the perfect choice that embodied the characters from the book extremely well.

Changes like these from the book had caught my attention, particularly the character of Namrata, Rishi's best friend, who is tired of being in the closet for years. What they share is the purest form of friendship, which made me think about how love is not the only important relationship to exist. Similarly, Harsh is another character who wins hearts as his character undergoes major transformation across the seasons and becomes the epitome of unrequited love. I appreciated that all the characters had their own problems and subplots, skilfully hidden behind the perception of "a perfect life".

In the book, we do not see much details about these struggles of the youth. In the show, however, when Dimple breaks down into a panic attack, finding it difficult to breathe, I think many of us could relate to her. When Harsh softly sings her favourite song, we think of all the friends who made difficult times pass by. When we see Simran starving herself, we think of all the times we skipped our favourite meal just to fit into the idea of a perfect body image. And finally, when we see Celina hide her secret, we realise how we often disown our identities, in an attempt to fit in. None of these tales were a part of the youth romance I read two years ago, and after finishing the show, I realise how important it is to put forward these representations.

Even with improvisations, the show feels like the book coming to life. The little scenes that have been picked straight from the pages hit very close to home. Be it the iconic "Hello future wife", a cup of cold coffee splashing on his face, or the idea of "non-dates", Mismatched is what a good book adaptation should look like. Coupled with great cinematography across Jaipur, the show is a treat to watch.

Maisha Islam Monamee is a student of IBA, DU, and a freelance journalist who likes reading, scribbling, and blogging. Follow @monameereads on Instagram.


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