Sponsor

New Release Review (VOD) - MEET THE PATELS

A documentarian of Indian descent films her brother's quest to find a match.





Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Geeta Patel, Ravi Patel

Starring: Ravi Patel, Geeta Patel, Champa V. Patel, Vasant K. Patel Audrey Wauchope



As a cultural documentary, Meet the Patels is superb; edifying, well-structured and entertaining. While I didn’t really care if Ravi got a girlfriend or not, I was amused and enlightened by his sister’s depiction of his journey and the intricacies of her multi-faceted culture.


According to Meet the Patels, Geeta Patel’s cheerful documentary concerning her actor brother Ravi Patel’s picaresque quest to find a romantic partner (a rom/com/dom?), there are countless Patels across the globe. And the surname is a crucial factor when regarding potential conjugal unions, signifying as it does a category of caste and village of origin. Patels are, traditionally, supposed to marry other Patels, too; the union arranged by respective ‘match makers’ within the culture. On the face of it, this is perhaps good news for hapless Ravi, a member of said clan, and a loveable loser who needs as much help as he can get as he approaches the prospect of a partner-free 30s.


Framing Ravi’s quest within her culture, Geeta Patel uses the narrative conceit in order to gently explore the American/Indian experience, with astute and insightful results. We are introduced to Ravi’s dad and mum (who were familiarised into a relationship when they were 18 and 14, respectively), and the dynamics of arranged courtship, which are enacted with military precision. Meet the Patels’ narrative line reverses the stereotypical romcom dictum of ‘Girl Must Have Man’, and to highlight the subversion Ravi talks about his love of American romantic films, with his sister cross cutting to scenes from Dirty Dancing and Jerry Maguire for emphasis. The juxtaposition is apposite; like watermelon lugging Baby, Ravi too bears the burden of an austere family unit: at one point, an aunt deadpans to Ravi that if he entered a relationship with a white American girl then she ‘won’t come to your house!’ adding a genuine ‘why would you do that?!’ for horrified measure!


Meet the Patels approaches its cultural topics with affection, but not without discernment. As someone who has not had a great deal of experience of Indian culture (a position that the film assumes), I found the informative personalising of such paradigms fascinating. Parents tout around ‘bio data’, essentially excruciating ‘dating resumes’ of their son or daughter which advertise their kin to other families, whose judgement is about as subtle as Simon Cowell in the early rounds of X-Factor; at one point, with insane bluntness, Ravi’s mum says that a potential partner is ‘not top notch looking’. But there’s also a more general historical emphasis; we discover, for example, that in order for Ravi’s father to receive an American education, the Indian village that he originally hails from pooled their financial resources to send him abroad, depicting the American dream in wonderful action (and a reminder of the privilege of indigenous westerners: what circumstantial geography has blessed me with, Patel Snr and other Patels have striven unimaginably for). However, the aspect that the film examines most closely is Ravi himself, and a certain type of modern masculinity. As he embarks upon his cross country date-a-thon, Ravi is an amusing figure, humorously lacking in self-awareness as he meets (usually hot af) Patel upon Patel. And, although while Ravi may not question himself, the film certainly does, with Geeta interrogating her brother's lack of commitment, and, in one of the film’s most cringe worthy sequences (of which there are a delicious many), filming a phone conversation with ex gf (red haired, white skinned, possible love of life Audrey) where Ravi desperately, all too sympathetically, enquiries why she has unfriended him - ouch!


As a cultural documentary, Meet the Patels is superb; edifying, well-structured and entertaining. While I didn’t really care if Ravi got a girlfriend or not (I recognise that this may not always be the case, but Ravi himself is being continually set up with lovely young women by a dedicated system, wherein he has first refusal - poor guy!), I was amused and enlightened by his sister’s depiction of his journey and the intricacies of her multi-faceted culture. Engaging, educational and informative, you too can meet the Patels at wearecolony.com
Extras:
A veritable cornucopia from the curators at wearecolony.com.There are several interviews with the cast and crew (including, sweetly, one with the fantastic Patel parents, who talk proudly about the impact that their childrens’ film has had on their lives), behind-the-scenes featurettes, Q+As, stills and more. The extras not only allow us to re-meet the Patels, but flesh out the themes of the film too, with shorts regarding the bio-data system and suchlike. Thorough.

MEET THE PATELS IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH IN THE UK AT:

Help support The Movie Waffler by sharing this post





discussion by