Twenty-nine-year-old Ravi Patel’s parents, Champa and Vasant, are Indian immigrants living in America who have begun pressuring Ravi to find a wife in accordance with their traditional courting customs. That means that they would initiate a process that would only consider a woman from the same caste as theirs, and preferably someone who already shares the family’s surname.
However, Ravi, who was born and raised in the United States, had little interest in choosing a mate in such a limited fashion, especially since he’s been secretly dating Audrey (who is not from India) for the past few years and he has fallen in love with her. Nevertheless, he decided to allow his parents to play matchmakers, but also arranged for his big sister Geeta to film the family’s comical attempts to find Ms. Right through a series of carefully arranged introductions.
Can an American college graduate agree to an arranged marriage when it’s time to settle down? That is the question posed by Meet the Patels, a delightful documentary that is co-directed by Ravi and Geeta.
The picture is hilarious, thanks to Champa and Vasant’s well-intentioned but overbearing style of parenting. It is clear that they want the best for their son, even if their concerns reflect values that Ravi believes in.
They escort Ravi to India to attend a Patel matrimonial convention where he speed-dates a number of eligible women. When he fails to make a connection with any of them, the family returns to California where there is a much smaller pool of appropriate potential wives to choose from.
“We’re paying the price, culturally, for moving to the U.S.,” his mother moans when her son rejects an overweight engineer she found for him at an online website. Meanwhile, comments from relatives like, “I need a marriage this year; I might die soon,” only serve to ratchet up the tension. Meanwhile, Audrey is patiently waiting in the wings and reminds Ravi that, “I have an interest in being your partner.”
Ravi’s difficult decision ultimately rests on whether ethnicity matters more to him than compatibility in the selection of a mate.
Excellent (****). Rated PG for mature themes, suggestive images, and smoking. In English and Gurjarati with subtitles. Running time: 88 minutes. Distributor: Alchemy.