It's a love story that has little to do with love and a lot to do with the process of finding it. Actor, director and writer Ravi Patel, who has played a handful of Indian doctors on television, is the main lead of new a laugh-out-loud documentary about Patels finding love -- "Meet the Patels" -- which is screening at the 2014 Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival.
Patels are basically the Smiths of India. With a majority of them living in Gujarat (located on the northwest coast of the country), as Ravi mentions, the Patel population is spread throughout North America as well. You probably know one or two Patels yourself.
With only one real girlfriend (read: one real, white, red-headed girlfriend) and a bunch of dates that never work out, Ravi embarks on a journey many first-generation Indian-Americans/Canadians have to go through all the time: Have your parents find you the love of your life. A smart, kind, loving person, who also happens to be a Patel. In 88 minutes, co-director/producer Geeta Patel (who is also Ravi's sister and has her own storyline within the documentary) shows Ravi trying everything, from South Asian dating sites to going to a Patel marital convention (yes, those exist).
While nailing all the Patel stereotypes and making us fall in love with his absolutely adorable parents, Ravi gives audiences insight on what it means to really find love and keep it. With a mix of humour, sass and the math of trying to explain the Patel marriage situation to non-Patels, "Meet the Patels" is basically the documentary the rest of the Patel population was waiting for.
In honour of being a Patel reviewing a movie about Patels made by Patels, here are 10 truths every Patel knows about love and marriage:
1. Patels marry other Patels
Don't be alarmed, this has nothing to do with incest. Traditionally, and as the movie suggests, a lot of Patels prefer to marry other Patels. Now, even though we all have the same last name, types of Patels (like Leva, Koli) differ depending on the area of Gujarat you're from. We also hear the joke about us not having to change our last name all the time, so get original, people!
2. We can hide everything from our Patel parents
We can go years and years and years without ever telling our parents about our relationships. While sometimes, like in Ravi's case, you date a non-Indian or a non-Patel, not telling your parents is probably the best route to avoid disappointment and anger. On the other hand, Patels also tend to hide their relationships (and life in general) from their parents to avoid them bringing up the "m" word: marriage.
3. No matter where you go, people will question why you're single
Once single Patels reach a certain age, I would say 24 for women and 28 for men, every single family member is suddenly interested in your love life. As Ravi and his family go to India in the first portion of the documentary, it's a great visual example of all the aunties and uncles that don't know how to mind their own business.
4. You marry the whole family
Like all South Asian cultures, family plays an important role in every decision you make. When it comes to getting married, most Patels know living with your in-laws isn't something "weird" or "strange." In fact, a lot of the time, Patels prefer living in one giant household ... while other times they just want their own damn space.
5. We secretly like being Patels
For any first-generation Canadian or American trying to navigate through a Western country, it can get hard to hold onto to our parents' traditions. At the end of the day, Patels love being Patels and even though we're stereotypically cheap and um, cheap, we do love everything about our language, food, values and culture.
6. Chances of us meeting the perfect Patel is 1/10000
As Ravi likes to point out in the film, the chances of meeting this so-called perfect Patel partner of your dreams is pretty small. Now, while there are a lot of us spread throughout the world, narrowing it down to petty things like caste and cities really limits your Patel options.
7. Dating is exhausting and expensive
Now obviously this is not a Patel-only thing, but like Ravi, when you have to date a lot of people in a small amount of time to find happiness, you end up getting incredibly tired and broke. Because a lot of us don't really get to date growing up or tell our parents about the dates we go on, communicating with your parents about dating feels like dating for the first time.
8. The "bio data" is real
A "bio data" is basically a resume highlighting so-called important factors like the colour of your skin (the lighter the better) and what kind of degree(s) you have. Now, if you're a Patel, you've either a) heard about the bio data, b) seen your own bio data or c) it is currently in circulation by your parents.
9. (White) people don't get it
In one scene, Ravi tries to explain the Patel dating process to his close non-Patel friends, and why his parents want him with another Patel to begin with. As a Patel, explaining the rules of marriage and dating isn't always easy, and for the most part, people just don't get it and probably never will.
10. Our parents just want us to be happy
As every Patel knows, as crazy as their parents may be, at the end of the day, they just want us to be happy ... with another Patel. For the most part, even if we don't end up finding the Patel of our dreams, our parents really just want us to be with someone who truly makes us happy, as you may or may not see in "Meet the Patels" (we won't spoil it here).
Royal Cinema, Sunday, Apr. 27, 9:30 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre, Tues., Apr. 29, 11:00 a.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre, Thurs., May 1, 9:30 p.m.