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MEET THE PATELS has been delighting audiences on the festival circuit for a while. I am delighted to report that it is finally coming to theaters in September. I am even more delighted to report that I was able to talk to the brother-sister team who made the film, and that the conversation was as much fun, and just as honest, as the documentary itself.
It’s a screamingly funny, boldly honest documentary about one single Indian-American guy’s search for the true love that will make him happy. And the marriage that will make his Indian-born parents equally happy. It examines with wit and affection the particulars of this cultural phenomenon, that of finding a suitable mate for one’s children, but the dynamics of family, particularly that of a first-generation children and the expectations of their traditional parents, has a universal quality. I hasn’t to add, though, that even if your parents didn’t come from another country, they do come from another generation, which often amounts to the same thing, and that the push-and-pull of kids wanting both independence and to please the people who gave them birth is one of the great truths of humanity.
Ravi, a working actor (Grandfathered, Another Period) is almost 30 as the film begins, and thereby the walking embodiment of his parents’ failure to take care of him by finding him a wife.That they were an arranged marriage, and are incredibly happy even though they agreed to wed after a 10-minute conversation, has their son wondering if the traditional Indian way of arranged marriages might have some merit over the American way of dating, A method that has left him with a secret and a broken heart. Hence, he throws himself into the fascinating sub-culture of biodata sheets being passed from relative to relative, making the Indian wedding circuit, and flying across North America for a series of dates with the women his parents find suitable. All with his sister, Geeta and her camera, in tow. Heartbreak, self-doubt, duty, desire, and the singular relationship Ravi and Geeta as a bonded pair who don’t necessarily get along make for a small film of epic proportions.
My full interview will post closer to the release date, but I wanted to share part of the conversation I had with them via the magic of Skype.