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'Meet The Patels' Makes You Think And Laugh, Critic Says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This story starts with a man who wanted to find a wife. He decided to put his quest on video. The video became a documentary. And our critic Kenneth Turan spoke with David Greene about "Meet The Patels."

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Normally, we here Kenneth Turan's reviews on the program. This morning, we thought it would be kind of fun to just have a conversation with him. Hey, Kenny.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, David. How you doing?

INSKEEP: I'm well. Thank you. So give us a thumbnail about this new movie, "Meet The Patels."

TURAN: Well, the best way to describe this film is to let the subject, Ravi Patel, who also co-directed with his sister Geeta, just to let him speak for himself.

INSKEEP: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MEET THE PATELS")

RAVI PATEL: How do we - how do we want to do this?

GEETA PATEL: Just start at the beginning of this story.

R. PATEL: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

R. PATEL: The story starts two years ago in LA. I had just broken up with Audrey, and I was miserable. We'd been together for two years, and I had never told mom and dad about her. In fact, they were freaking out because, you know, here I was, almost 30, never married, which, in our culture, is like...

G. PATEL: Code red.

R. PATEL: ...Code red.

TURAN: You can hear in this clip how engaging Ravi Patel is. He's a performer, he's a working actor, and the film follows his attempts to find a wife. It's a funny film, it's a warm film, and it really works because you have him sincerely participating in this search for a wife but also kind of amused at all the crazy stuff he ends up doing.

GREENE: OK, working actor but actually giving us a window into his real life in a documentary, and it - God, it sounds like his family really wants to get involved in the process of him finding a woman.

TURAN: Oh, it's hysterical. I mean, his parents are the product of arranged marriage. His parents met for 10 minutes before they got married. They've been happily married for 35 years. You know, one of the things his father likes to say is that most people date and get married. We did the opposite.

TURAN: And Ravi...

GREENE: (Laughter).

TURAN: ...Loves their relationship, he loves Indian culture, and he decides he's going to try it their way, but there's a twist. He is also a Patel.

GREENE: He's a Patel. And what does that mean?

TURAN: Well, the Patels are a particular clan. They're a prosperous clan. They come from a very specific part of India. There are millions of them. And the film says they are expected to marry each other. In fact, one of the things that Ravi goes through is a Patel matrimonial convention, and here's a little bit of what he went through during that.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "MEET THE PATELS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Somebody that met last year is already married, and there is another couple that's almost there.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: One-thirty to five, icebreakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Three and a half hours of icebreakers (laughter).

GREENE: So this is like speed dating just for people who are Patels.

TURAN: Exactly.

GREENE: So Kenny, beyond this convention, I mean, what else does this guy have to go through if he has to get to this arranged marriage that's expected of him?

TURAN: There's this whole system known as biodating, where you kind of fill out a resume, and it's sent out into the world to family and friends.

GREENE: Oh, wow.

TURAN: And families read the resumes, and then if things look right, phones calls are made, and dates are set up. There are Indian matrimonial websites. There are trips to India during wedding season to meet other people who might be in a wedding frame of mind. It's endless.

GREENE: These would be trips for people who are living in the United States but would go back to India to find a spouse.

TURAN: Exactly.

GREENE: Well, what exactly did you like about this movie? I mean, you know, a documentary that started as a home movie, I mean, it's sort of unique.

TURAN: I haven't really ever seen anything quite like it. I mean, we can all identify, first of all, with all the strange things that you do when you're searching for love. But really, this film also deals with deeper issues. I know from my own parents' experience that immigrants make a kind of devil's bargain when they come to this country. They know they'll get freedom and opportunity, but they don't really realize how much of their culture they're going to have to give up. And this film deals with that. It makes you think. It makes you laugh. You can't do better than that.

GREENE: All right, Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan talking to us about a new documentary, "Meet The Patels," that opens today. Thanks, Kenny.

TURAN: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.