Meet the Patels is the movie we never knew we needed – a traditional Indian love story with a twist (or two).
Ravi Patel is on a marital mission. Fresh out of a serious (and secret) relationship with Audrey (read: a white girl), he has to re-enter the dating world, but things are different than the last time he was there. He’s pushing 30 now, meaning he is a hair away from finding himself in the box that most Indian men and women dread at one moment or another in their early lives – the one labeled “unmarriageable.” So, Ravi does what any young person would do in this situation – he enlists the help of his mom and dad to arrange his marriage, and he gets his loving sister Geeta to film it! The story that follows is Meet the Patels.
This documentary functions like a family project (6 years in the making), with the brother/sister duo filming, directing, and starring, while mom (Champa Patel) and dad (Vasant Patel) essentially run the show. Ravi searches across the Gujarat region of India, throughout the U.S., and even ventures into Canada, determined to find “the one.” Mom and Dad arrange an infinite number of dates, each one leaving Ravi with the hopeless feeling that he will never find a wife, at least not any time soon.
A plot twist emerges when Ravi has an epiphany. He’s trying to live the life that he has always imagined for himself – the one his parents had, the one his cousins and aunts and uncles had, and the one that he always believed he wanted. He comes to a slightly frightening realization that what he really wants, he may have already pushed out the door. Meet the Patels is relatable to anyone who has ever had a relationship that they kept under wraps, anyone who has ever felt pressure to love someone they don’t, and anyone who has had to pretend to be someone they are not out of fear.
Meet the Patels is impressive in that it accomplishes two seemingly contradictory things. First, it shows us “the other” side of arranged marriages, in a world so quick to deem the practice archaic and outdated. The film preserves the tradition in its honest entirety, meaning that it isn’t always sugar coated or “romantic” by the book, but it maintains a positive portrayal. Various members of Ravi’s family make appearances throughout the movie. They share their arranged marriage stories – some are shocking, some are sweet, and some are funny. The point is that in the context of this movie, arranged marriages are completely standard. It is not othered; instead it is the norm. For the massive population of Indians’ who are products of an arranged marriage, this is the movie we have been waiting for – the story of how our parents met.
The second feat that Meet the Patels achieves is that they don’t antagonize the parents. Instead of pigeonholing them into the usual portrayal of Indian parents, Mom and Dad thrive. They are given complete freedom to express themselves, and they are unapologetic, raw, and wholehearted in their love. Leaving the audience on the edge of their seat, completely sure of what Mom and Dad are going to say next (likely due to the one-sided, flat Indian parental characters we have so long been exposed to), Mom and Dad constantly surprise us. When we are sure they’re going to flip on Ravi and Geeta, they are understanding. When they do flip, it’s not for the reasons we think. Their presence is like an arm around your shoulder, assuring you that despite your fears, you are loved and your happiness is valid.
Meet the Patels allows us an uncensored look at aspects of culture and tradition that we have experienced ourselves, but haven’t seen on film.
Visit the Meet The Patels website to see when the film is playing at a theatre near you across North America.