What Exactly is a TV Marriage?
“Shaadi Online” means “Marriage Online” in Urdu, and this popular Karachi-based prime-time TV show has already arranged scores of Pakistani marriages during its 6-year history.
The secret behind its success lies in its knack for respecting Pakistani and Muslim cultural tendencies that leave matchmaking singles to the family and community. Shaadi Online gives modern Pakistani singles them the opportunity to look outside the box, but to do so with their families’ backing, a little televised guidance and of course, a touch of glitz ‘n’ glamour.
What’s more (and here’s the clever bit) by using a computer database that contains thousands of singles, the show does its bit to break down the wealth and status barriers that are often crucial factors when it comes to scrutinizing a potential partner in Pakistani society – the kind of pressures prospective brides especially tend to come up against, when introduced to potential suitors.
Each weekly programme showcases two single men and one single woman, who are introduced to the audience and viewers via a pre-recorded video presentation that features their family, friends and work life. Once on the set, the hosts sensitively ask them about what they’re looking for in an ideal potential life partner.
The answers they give are fed into a computer database of 100,000 singles and the contestants are presented with a list of possible matches. Live on the show, they phone the potential matches that most catch their eye, while viewers listen in. Singles who have registered with the database via the Internet can also show their interest by e-mail.
Advice is the Best Love Potion
Well meaning advice reigns supreme on Shaadi Online. Each weekly show features a married couple that offers advice on the suitability of a potential match. Viewers also add their two bob’s worth from the armchair and even call in with opinions to help contestants see the wood for the trees more easily.
In some ways, this formula is just a metamorphosis of traditional Pakistani single matching, which is usually done between families or go-betweens.
Blind Date it Ain’t
You won’t find any of Pakistani singles that volunteer to appear on Shaadi online subjected to ridiculous questions behind paper-thin partitions. Nor will you find them paired off for an awkward night out, trailed by a camera crew as they flit between unease and wishing the ground would swallow them up. “Marriage Online” is a game about keeping it real and playing for keeps.
Love: Home and Away
Shaadi Online has also recorded shows in Dubai and London, in order to cater to Pakistanis who are struggling to find a suitable partner because they live overseas.
“This is not really a dating show”, said host Mustanswer Hussain Tarar, a prominent romance writer and actor, in an interview with MSNBC in 2006. “It offers a helping hand in making a social contract with the consent of the couple and their parents.”
By 2006 Shaadi Online had successfully matched 35 couples for marriage, although many more singles found each other through the Web site.