New Delhi: For years, matrimonial websites have suffered from a gap in expectations: Its users would log on only to find the girl next door, when they were really secretly hoping for Bipasha Basu. A new facial search feature on BharatMatrimony and its stable of regional sites, however, now promises the next best thing: The girl next door who looks, from a certain angle and in dim light, like Bipasha Basu. Or the boy next door, who in similar light and from a similar angle, looks like M.S. Dhoni.
Tangential similarities: The new feature offers a gallery of celebrities to choose from. It then trawls the database for celebrity ‘look-alikes’.
The new feature, launched earlier this month, offers up a gallery of India’s leading celebrities of (mostly) marriageable age—male as well as female—and invites its users to pick a favourite. A filter then trawls the database to find that celebrity’s “look-alikes”.
The similarities are sometimes tangential but often imaginary—often enough, in fact, that BharatMatrimony’s disclaimer is sorely overworked: “Facial Search is still in beta version and is not assured to always produce appropriate results.”
“We wanted to look at different preferences, and add a new, exciting dimension to the search feature,” says Uma Thenappan, head of marketing at Consim Info Pvt. Ltd., of which BharatMatrimony is a part. “We developed the facial search algorithm in-house and tested it for six or seven months internally before going live with it.”
The algorithm, which allows for religion and caste preferences, works by measuring distances between facial features and then pulling up candidate photographs with similar facial configurations. “When people say: ‘I chose Aishwarya Rai and got people who don’t look like her,’ it’s because they only get photos with similar geometrical dimensions,” says Thenappan. “If you want the same green eyes and the same complexion—well, that won’t happen.”
BharatMatrimony’s facial search has been customized, till date, for roughly half of its regional sites. TamilMatrimony and TeluguMatrimony get the stars of their respective cinema industries, but MarwadiMatrimony, ParsiMatrimony and AssameseMatrimony, among others, have to be content with a standard shopping-list of Bollywood heartthrobs.
In testimony to cricket’s pan-Indian appeal, however, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ishant Sharma make it into every one of the regional sites.
Wise in the ways of personal attraction, and knowing that beauty resides in the beholder’s eye, the website also slips in the facial templates of Aravind Adiga, A.R. Rahman, Sabeer Bhatia and Narain Karthikeyan for good measure. “After Slumdog Millionaire, the number of searches for Rahman has gone up,” Thenappan says. “Although I think it’s more to just find people who look like him, not for marriage or anything like that.”
“I’m not sure it’s a good filter—it feels more like a feature for a dating website than a matrimonial website,” says V. Deviprasad, an unmarried Chennai-based executive who considers himself something of a marriage-market expert. “People tend to look first at a profile’s education, location, that kind of thing. The photograph is only a hygiene factor. You’re not going to marry a Quasimodo anyway.”
On playing around with the facial search feature, Deviprasad found the results inconsistent, but he admitted that the prospects intrigued him. “What would be pretty cool would be if I could choose a combination—say (the Tamil film actress) Tamanna’s nose, Tabu’s mouth, Priyanka Chopra’s figure—and find somebody with those features,” he says. “That would really be something.”
Ayeshea Perera contributed to this story.