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Arts & Culture

WFAE Meets The Patels

A Charlotte family has made it to the big screen. The Patels, an Indian-American family, are the stars of their own documentary. The film follows the comedic journey of actor Ravi Patel trying to find his future wife. But there’s a catch, his parents are the ones calling all the shots. WFAE’s Sarah Delia met the Patels at their home in Charlotte and has this story.

Much of Meet the Patels is homemade footage shot by Ravi’s sister Geeta. The film starts on the family’s annual trip to India while his sister is filming.

“I had just broken up with my white girlfriend who I had never told mom and dad about. They spent the entire flight pressuring us on not being married because when you’re approaching the age of 30 and you’re not married, in my family and culture, that’s the biggest code red that could be happening," Ravi Patel says.

So he agrees to let his parents take control of his dating life which includes letting them arrange who he will met.

His “bio-data,” basically his dating resume, is passed along to women of his parents choosing. A mixture of hilarity and raw vulnerability ensues as Ravi tries to find his dream partner.

But Ravi is only one of the main stars of this documentary.

So I asked him, what could I expect if I paid a house visit to his parents…his co-stars?

First he laughed.

"You can expect to never leave! You’re going to be eating the whole time. They are going to ask you lots of personal questions, once they get into whatever problems you have, they will get busy trying to fix them. You’re definitely going to come out of this with a lot of opinions that much I can promise you," he said.

Free food and advice from a couple that’s been married 40 plus years? Doesn’t sound like a horrible way to spend an afternoon.

Vasant Patel, Ravi and Geeta's father, is waiting at the door and gives producer Erin Keever and me a warm welcome. We sit down in their home office. Their little dog Jazz (also seen in the movie), is by their sides. It’s not long before food is offered.

Champa Patel, Ravi and Geeta's mother, offers tea and homemade samosas with chutney.

Vasant and Champa Patel are as Ravi described: relentlessly authentic. They are warm, funny, bubbly, opinionated, and really excited about this film.

Vasant even has blue campaign looking posters with bright yellow font that read “Meet the Patels,” which are posted in their neighbor’s yards.

Vasant says the attention the family has gotten is fun, but, what they’ve learned about their children is the most rewarding part of the film.

"We realized they are really good at what they do. I don’t think we would have believed that," he said. 

The Patels wed in the early 70’s—and it was an arranged marriage. They only met for about 10 minutes face to face before deciding to get married.

A far cry from the Western world of dating their children grew up in.

For them, first came marriage, and then came love. Champa, definitely the sentimentalist of the couple, says she can’t pin point the exact moment the couple feel in love. But she does remember a moment of clarity when she learned the meaning of Vasant’s name.

"My name [means] flower, his name [means] spring. The flower that blooms in spring, that is my name. So when I found out his name before we got married, I started thinking in my own mind ‘that will be the true love,'" she said.

And their love is huge part of this film—which by the way is doing pretty well for a limited release documentary. Overall the reviews have been positive. In fact, 83 percent of critics for the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes have given the film a good review.  

However their children choose to find love, the couple says, they hope that value of commitment that’s made their marriage last so long will be passed on to them.  And that’s what they hope people take away from their story.