Marriage, family, and Indian culture intersect in Meet the Patels. The romantic comedy documentary film focuses on the search of almost-30-year-old Ravi Patel for love, with a little help from his family in India. Filmed by his sister Geeta Patel, it won the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Ravi Patel answers a few questions about the film below. For more, read this review of the film shared earlier on The Aerogram. Meet the Patels opens today in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City theaters.
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Nishat Kurwa: The topic of marriage in South Asian communities seems to never get old for a wide range of viewers across generations, but it’s also full of clichés. Your film feels like a fresh approach. How did other movies in the Indian wedding genre (whether doc or feature) impact your storytelling?
Ravi Patel: For us, we tried really hard to tell the story from our most authentic, truthful perspective, so it wasn’t really about achieving anything different or same as the other films about Indians or marriage. This is a romantic comedy about family that just happens to have some Indian elements, and we just tried our best to show them based on what we experienced first hand — that was our approach.
I think our bigger inspiration was just romantic comedies in general. Like, every romantic comedy I feel like. Jerry McGuire, When Harry Met Sally, Dirty Dancing, Notting Hill, Say Anything, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Eat Pray Love, Woody Allen films, Wes Anderson, and even shows like Arrested Development. We used actual clips from some of these films in places, other times alluding to them, and other times using stylistic elements we loved from those films/filmmakers. And then it was about just making it fun by adding in elements such as upbeat music, couples’ interviews, and animation, that latter of which was inspired by This American Life and American Splendor.
NK: It comes across loud and clear in the film that you have a very close relationship with your parents. How, if at all, has your relationship with them evolved since the film hit the festival circuit?
RP: I could talk about this forever. First off, Geeta and I could not fire each other, despite wishing we could at many times. So, instead, at some point we had to learn how to listen better, love each other’s POV, and say yes to each others’ ideas in times when our gut yelled no. We are truly best friends now. And we respect each other as filmmakers. I could have never know to dream for this. And I definitely would not have predicted that we would work together on more projects, which is what is happening now!
Similarly in terms of family, what you saw on screen was a family learning to work through conflict. It was a family learning how to respect each other in times of disagreement, and learning how to be transparent even when it represented a short-term loss. And now we are all traveling together, going to film festivals, doing talk shows together — Mom and Dad work eight hours a day using their network and entrepreneurial experience in marketing this film. They ordered Meet the Patels yard signs and people all over the country are posting them on Facebook. It’s incredible. And for that reason, no matter how this movie performs in the box office, we feel like we already won. Love these guys. THAT SAID, it would be amazing if we did very well in theaters this weekend 🙂
NK: Can you talk about any reactions from audiences that surprised you? Have you gotten any feedback from audiences that shifted your thinking about our communities’ matchmaking obsessions and traditions?
RP: I knew Indians would love it. Did not see people from all walks of life loving it. Last night, we had a screening in Chicago, and the crowd was as diverse as it gets: every age, every background, and every walk of life. They were all laughing like crazy. I can’t believe it.
We’ve sold out every screening in the last year, won a bunch of audience awards, and it’s been over 90 percent non-Indian audiences. And now these same people, who I don’t know and owe me nothing, are telling their friends to go watch it. They have Dad’s yard signs. I just can’t believe what’s happening. The kindness of complete strangers has been quite touching.
NK: Any other brother-sister collaborations forthcoming?
RP: Yup. Some pretty cool stuff in the works, and hopefully you will hear about it soon!
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