The content creator talks about her new series for Tinder India, that has featured the likes of actors Sara Ali Khan and Rashmika Mandanna
With lockdown restrictions easing up and people adapting to the new normal, women in India are back to navigating the complex power relations that plague the dating scene in India.
Now, Swipe Ride, a show by Tinder India on YouTube, is putting women at the centre of the conversations surrounding dating. The series is hosted by popular content creator, comedian and social media star Kusha Kapila, and co-created with film director Debbie Rao, and comics and writers Shreeja Chaturvedi and Supriya Joshi.
Each episode sees Kusha driving a Tinder member to her date, accompanied by one influential woman personality; the likes of actors Sara Ali Khan and Rashmika Mandanna have been part of the series already.
Excerpts from an interview with Kusha on Swipe Ride:
The show features young English speaking women coming from relatively wealthy families. Is that the target demographic of the show?
Fair question. This is such a new idea in the post-pandemic world; to go out and have people come together. It is almost like you start something and then you realise you need to expand your universe. We had to first plant the idea of this format and show that something like this can be done. Once this receives good reception, we will look to diversify, be it having people with different sexual orientations or those living in different parts of the country. The idea will always be to be more inclusive. In case we get a second season, we will definitely have diverse representation on the show.
After interacting with women who use online dating apps, what according to you are some of the problems women face while using them?
It is like a rite of passage. If you do use online dating apps, it is a mixed bag of experiences. More than problems, I think people have different experiences; some make for good stories and some make for strange stories. I think everybody’s idea of dating differs. One problem I have noticed though is dating during the pandemic. People could not see each other, and it was especially hard for single people to make any meaningful connections.
Online apps did help, but with things opening up right now, it has started to change. I feel like I can’t generalise it. They ranged from, “I don’t like men who post shirtless pictures!” to “When I am a south Indian and I meet north Indians, people have a certain idea of me.” Every person I meet has completely different expectations when it comes to dating and their own unique problems.
You are trying to create a safe space for women to feel comfortable and talk about their dating lives through this show. Would you like to elaborate on this?
I think a certain space is not considered safe because of the fear of judgement. If someone says they don’t like a certain thing about men, you could also argue that they won’t like the same thing about you. I don’t think this made it to the show, but someone made a very throwaway statement about how they don’t like the “Lokhandwala-model-type boys” and we just laughed it off by saying that they’ve done nothing to you, for you to have this prejudice.
Sara Ali Khan also featured on an episode of ‘Swipe Ride’
One must not be scared to put forth a statement in a safe space; basically the freedom to say what you want, but also the ability to listen to a counter-opinion and reflect on it. I don’t want safe spaces to turn into echo chambers though; there must always be healthy discussions.
Since Swipe Ride is trying to put women at the centre of dating, could you talk about how dating in India has changed in recent years, and its impact on women’s agency?
Women definitely have more agency today. A decade ago, we never had the opportunity to go and look at our options! Dating apps today discard the idea that women have to be approached. We have always been made to believe that women don’t make the first move. We have seen popular media emphasise this, and even if women did make the first move, they were shown in a bad light. However, with dating apps on the scene, I think women can make the first move, and in a way, claim their power back.
But at the same time, we need to accept that this is not the reality for many women in India. The real-life power relations do seep into these apps. You can empower women with tools to help them stay safe. In case someone is crossing the boundary, you can report the person. These tools are an attempt to level the playing field in some ways.
If you could meet your 20-year-old self using apps to navigate her dating life, what would your advice be?
Oh, man! (laughs) I never got to be on a dating app. I actually have very little information about these; I think that’s why it’s exciting to be the host, because it is just me living vicariously through the people using apps and asking them all sorts of questions.
As someone with body image issues, I don’t know how I’d handle rejection on these apps. Not only do you have the agency to reject, you will also get rejected. I feel like once you do it enough times, you’ll develop a thick skin hopefully. My advice to her would probably be to just take it easy.
Do you have a best/worst dating story?
My best story is with my current partner! He asked me to go out with him on five dates when he was pursuing me, and take a call after those five dates on if we should be together romantically. My worst is when someone ghosted me after meeting me twice. When you don’t get closure, you end up overthinking… and that gets to you.
Any future projects that you are working on?
There are a bunch of things that I am working on that I cannot reveal. But I definitely want to do a second season of Swipe Ride. We have had some good conversations here and I see people talking about them online. With a second season, we will also get to diversify the show and have people from all walks of life feature on it.
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