If someone were to cross the cross-cultural outlandish humor of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with the sociological insight of Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance,” it would probably look a lot like the documentary “Meet the Patels.” This real-life tale of alternatively bristling with and embracing Indian marriage traditions, shot like the wackiest home movie ever, proves every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.
I’m not sure what prompted Geeta Patel to pick up the camera and start recording her brother Ravi’s quest for lifelong companionship, but I am certainly glad the two collaborated to make this endearing chronicle of romance. The film begins with Ravi reeling from a breakup with a red-haired white girl, a two-year relationship he managed to keep entirely secret from his conservative Indian parents. Pushing 30 with no prospects of marriage in the traditional Western fashion, Ravi decides to embrace the means that brought his parents together.
For anyone who thinks the idea of an “arranged marriage” sounds like something barbaric out of a corny princess movie, I dare you to watch “Meet the Patels” with an open mind. Then, try telling me the system doesn’t soun more effective than the no strings attached, no labels, swipe right or Netflix and chill methods favored by many these days as a means of starting a relationship. Gone are the days of meeting your betrothed 15 minutes before exchanging vows; instead, in the United States, an intensive network of like-minded Indian singles attempts to find compatibility for life.
The process turns out to be quite frustrating and nerve-wracking for Ravi, although it is fun and thought-provoking to watch from the other side of the camera. (Geeta certain has a lot of fun, that’s for sure!) The candor and honesty with which “Meet the Patels” portrays relationships, both romantic and familial, makes it truly moving to watch unfold. It is not dependent on reality for its effectiveness, but it certainly helps that we have actual stakes for which to cheer.
And best of all, it might even encourage you to live and communicate more transparently with your own loved ones. That’s certainly how I felt, at least. A- /