Meet the Patels | Documentary about Indian American Arranged Marriage | Independent Lens | PBS
With his 30th birthday just around the corner, Ravi Patel finds himself in a love triangle -- with the woman of his dreams and his parents. Watch trailers & learn. Ravi Patel remembers exactly where he was when inspiration struck for Meet the Patels, the documentary he made with sister Geeta Patel over. Ravi's older sister, Geeta, directs “Meet the Patels” with a tone of mischief recognizable to anyone who has a sibling. You can hear her laughing.
We also see how brave and strong they are to try to understand us, and help us achieve our dreams and find love. We are really lucky. We want to be there for our parents, too. I also feel so much more aware of my emotions and actions.
And I realize that love is more important than anything else. And that my family will always be there. They know us better now, too. In the end, we all have a much deeper relationship because we are all much more honest with each other.
While we often disagree about things, we are mostly respectful of letting everyone be themselves.
Meet the Patels Filmmaker Q&A | Blog | Independent Lens | PBS
Other than that, I think, in getting to see our entire family as characters in a movie, we both got a chance to be truly grateful for how lucky we are to have such a wonderful family. What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this, and make your family closer. Oh, and mom and dad are famous now. I get calls every day from people wanting to cast them in all kinds of things. Do you have an especially favorite scene? Just a…few things have changed in your lives since the filming stopped.
What updates can you share with us? What did you learn while shooting a personal film like Meet the Patels that helped you with your approach to filming TV shows?
I just kind of filmed Ravi as I filmed mom and dad.
'Meet The Patels': One Man's Quest To Find Love, The Old-School Indian Way
When we came back from India, we showed the footage to PBS. And two, the relationship between you and your brother is really strong. But we both thought about it, and even though it is quite a sacrifice and inconvenience to tell the story of your own family, especially being from a private, difficult culture to document, I wanted to make the film that I wish was around when I was going through this. So that feeling overpowered the sacrifice and inconvenience.
The reality television way of doing things would be that the moment someone is about to cry you bring the camera out. Very early on we had decided that the family comes before the film. We wrestled with it. We actually met with him. Our goal was that the animation was not going to be gratuitous or boring.Meet Ravi Patel of ‘Meet the Patels’
And I think the animation added a whole new dimension to the film. So I learned that putting your own restrictions like that can actually lead to something really great. I also learned that if you are a director, learn the business side.
Did making that film change how you see the acting business? Did it change how others saw you? My first role was in Transformers. And the only impression I could do was this Indian call-center guy, and so those were the sorts of roles I got cast in. But those roles really catapulted me. Audrey is white, and Ravi's parents — Vasant and Champa Patel — expect their only son will marry a nice Indian girl, preferably from their hometown province of Gujarat.
That area is filled with Patels who are all distantly related, and many of whom have married each other since time immemorial. Soon after, he's slumped in a plane seat as his parents hector him about not being married, not presenting them with the grandchildren they long for, etc. There Ravi was "with my parents.
A Patel family selfie, with actor Ravi clockwise from leftparents Champa and Visant, and sister Geeta. Courtesy of Alchemy hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Alchemy A Patel family selfie, with actor Ravi clockwise from leftparents Champa and Visant, and sister Geeta.
Courtesy of Alchemy Geeta, a filmmaker, had recently finished a documentary project. She had brought along a camera purely to shoot family footage on the trip. But watching the exchange Ravi was having with their parents, her filmmaker's instinct kicked in, as did the natural inclination of a big sister to torture her younger sibling.
My brother is, like, hilariously suffering right now — let's film it! Geeta followed Ravi around, chronicling his attempts to find a woman both he and his parents could love. After agreeing to see if his parents' way to find The One might work better than his own, Ravi began a dating odyssey. It took him cross-town, crosscountry, out of the country and even to an annual Patel matrimonial convention in Baltimore, designed to introduce young single Patels to each other in the hopes that they'll decide to date, maybe even marry.
Remember, back home, Patels marry Patels, right? Geeta, a petite woman with a quick laugh and huge eyes, admits that as a student at Duke University, she went to a few of the conventions and returned to school without ever mentioning where she'd been.
For one thing, the purposefulness of the Patel conventions was so opposite the cherished Western notion that love just finds you when it's time. Pretty in Pink, Pretty Woman, whatever.
She could just hear the judgment: Her parents, her aunts and uncles, their friends, everyone she loved had arranged marriages — and they all worked.
Meet the Patels
Vasant Patel was getting a graduate degree in engineering when he returned home for a brief introduction to Champa Patel. They weren't together for more than 10 minutes, but she agreed to marry him. Both fervently believe in having the people who know you best help you find your true love.