In 2009, the brother and sister team Geeta and Ravi Patel began to explore and document the societal pressures of marriage in their first-generation Indian American family. The result of their questioning the repercussions of marrying outside one’s religion, faith and culture, is a wonderful, lighthearted documentary called “Meet The Patels.”
The film follows the then almost 30-year-old Ravi in his quest to find a prospective mate. Though Ravi is willing to do whatever it takes to find love, there’s one tricky detail to consider: In his family, Patels marry other Patels. It’s not incest; it means they are from the same 50-square mile radius in India.
Struck with how overwhelmingly happy the marriages are of his Patel family and friends, Ravi agrees to enter foolproof Patel matchmaking system. A well-oiled machine, the Patel network is instantly alerted of Ravi’s availability through his legendary matchmaker mother and his life-advice-spouting father, both of whom expertly quarterback Ravi’s love life through a system that has brought love into the lives of all of Ravi’s cousins. Over the course of a year, Ravi’s parents send him on a whirlwind of dates around the United States via the “Biodating” system, a chain of weddings, online matrimonial websites, and the “Patel Matrimonial Convention.”
I saw “Meet the Patels” by coincidence and only after failing to persuade my friend to see a documentary on the Black Panthers playing at the Film Forum. From the start I was sucked in and fascinated watching Ravi and his controlling, overbearing parents. There is something actually very sweet and tender about their family dysfunction that had me rooting for Ravi, while at the same time moved by his parents, two Patels who married as the result of the matchmaking system, and are blissfully happy together.