Zlín 2024 Review: A MATCH Crushes Aspirations and Autonomy in Arranged Marriages

Emerging director Jayant Digambar Somalkar presents a coming-of-age drama exploring the conflict between personal desires and societal expectations in rural patriarchal India.

Contributor; Slovakia (@martykudlac)
Zlín 2024 Review: A MATCH Crushes Aspirations and Autonomy in Arranged Marriages

Rural India serves as both a backdrop and a battleground for a young woman's struggle against societal expectations in Jayant Digambar Somalkar's debut feature, A Match, that centers on arranged marriages in patriarchal India. Through the story of Savita, a determined girl yearning for education amidst relentless pressures to marry, Somalkar unveils how cultural norms and social conventions continue to bind women in traditional roles.

Somalkar, whose previous works include the award-winning short film Iyatta: Class and the co-directed Amazon Prime Video series Guilty Minds, demonstrates a keen eye for human relationships and social issues. A Match is a personal film, shot in the very village where the director was born and raised. His choice to cast non-professional actors from the local community further enriches the film's texture, imbuing it with realism.

A Match unfolds in the village of Dongargaon in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, following Savita (Nandini Chikte). The protagonist is in her final year of college, preparing for entrance exams that she hopes will pave the way for a brighter future.

Her aspirations clash, however, with her parents' urgent quest to find her a suitable husband, a task fraught with rejection and prejudice. The suitors dismiss Savita for her complexion and her family's farming background, highlighting the deeply ingrained colorism and classism that plague the community.


Somalkar sets a rhythmic pattern through the recurring scenes of prospective suitors visiting Savita’s home. The repetition soon takes a more satiric turn when Savita is judged more as a commodity than a person, depicting arrange marriages as a transaction. Despite her education, capacities and ambitions to work in administrative, one of the deciding questions over her ultimate worth is whether she is willing to work in a field, a predicament she wants to eschew as her family endures a tough farming life, which leaves them open to exploitation.

A Match has the blueprint of a typical high-school coming-of-age film (with social realist drama in the background, framed by the protagonist's parents), albeit due to cultural norms, it is a less carefree existence. While the female perspective remains the crucial lens for the social probe, Somalkar inserts a masculine counterpoint, Savita's brother Mangya (Suyog Dhawas), whose position is also determined by his background relegating him to work in a father's field. In addition, being outclassed on the marketplace of grooms, he also encounters limitations when hoping to marry his sweetheart.


Somalkar draws a clear, stark line between the siblings. Savita works hard to finish her studies and land a job in administrative and at one point, after a tough day in a field, she spends the night studying for an exam. Mangya, on the other hand, helps his father in the field, but otherwise does not execute additional effort to rescue himself from the predicament, rather spending money on a fantasy cricket league and hanging out with his friends.

Savita's ordeal grows more frustrating as she appears to be rid of agency and the situation does not turn out for the better even if a willing suitor appears. as in addition to ticking off expectations, there is a hefty price tag on the marriage. And the director, who also penned the script, further complicates the situation, as Savita has a crush on her teacher, who happens to reciprocate while teaching the class about feminism and emancipation. The hypocrisy of the patriarchy soon emerges.

A Match explores the intersection between personal ambition and social expectation, and Somalkar joins the current wave of filmmakers reflecting gender roles, stereotypes, and the struggle for autonomy and agency. A Match speaks to the resilience of women in the face of systemic oppression, highlighting the quiet acts of rebellion that constitute their fight for autonomy. Savita’s journey is emblematic, torn between her dreams and aspirations, and being halted by the rigid frameworks imposed by their communities.

The film screened at the Zlin Film Festiavl in the Czech Republic

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Jayant Digambar SomalkarZlín Film Fest 2024

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