Meet the Patels is the closest you’ll ever come to knowing what actually goes behind the proverbial big, fat Indian wedding. Marriage is a full blown family affair in India. And Meet the Patels is proof.
It trails the life of soon-to-be 30, Indian-American Ravi Patel torn between the love for his parents and life’s choices. The documentary is truly ‘life caught unawares’ that derives its charm from situational hilarity than contrived gimmickry. Expect no melodrama. This is a rather funny, charming family that has its share of disagreements and misunderstandings yet sticks up for each other. You quickly warm up to them.
Shot by the Patel siblings themselves (Geeta and Ravi Patel), the documentary interestingly highlights the gaping generational disconnect. Ravi’s age is a ticking time bomb for the Patel parents who want to see him married. He’s 30! He wants to settle down but is unwilling to rush the process. Their ideas of marriage are like chalk and cheese. But the documentary doesn’t try to impose on us and side with either of their opinions. That’s the beauty of Meet the Patels.
It’s interesting how the film intersperses live-action footage with animation (particularly the overly dramatic bits). It lifts the weight off what could otherwise end up becoming cliched and sappy.
Meet the Patels ends up an entertaining ride equally because of its rich, full-bodied characters. Our protagonist Ravi carries himself with an appealing, understated ease that adds to his performance. His expressions give away more than words. He perfectly portrays the man caught between two cultures. He wants to embrace the goodness of both, without disregarding one for the other. The parents are not caricatures or uni-dimensional. They put forth their ideas and opinions with equal conviction and believability. The film doesn’t find you taking sides. It makes you look forward in hope for a solution.
Meet the Patels is streaming on Netflix.