Interview with Ravi Patel

                                                                                                       Photo Credit: redcarpetcrash.com

            Falling in love and trying to find the One to spend the rest of our lives with is part of what makes us human. This isn’t always the easiest task on our own, but can you imagine having your parents “helping” you every step of the way? No? Then meet Ravi Patel, the star of his new documentary Meet the Patels about his journey trying to find love the old fashioned way after his breakup with his long-term and secret girlfriend. The old fashioned way is going through the “Patel Dating Service” or Bio-Dating, which is ultimately submitting your headshot and resume to be passed around from family to family in hopes of finding a wife or husband.

            I had the great pleasure of interviewing Ravi Patel after I saw his documentary to get his perspective on the making and finishing of this documentary and his experience with trying to find the one with his family right by his side.

Katie Schrum: So what made you want to share this very personal story?

Ravi Patel: What made me want to share this personal story? You know how it starts off with that trip to India? Geeta, my sister, has just bought the camera and was just messing around with it and we’re having these conversations and I was like “isn’t it just crazy that I had to hide my girlfriend from my parents? I’m almost thirty. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think it makes me a bad person. Does everyone get this much pressure to get married? Is this normal?” So we were just having this real conversation and I told Geeta that it feels like we should do something about this. We knew people who had committed suicide over this. We knew people who had hilarious tragedy over this.

KS: It’s clear you’re really close to your family, but what was it like to have them know every detail of your romantic life going from them not knowing anything at all?

RP: Well are you close to your family?

KS: Yes

RP: Are they all up in your shit all the time?

KS: A lot of the time, yeah.

RP: Then you know how it feels. It’s exhausting but at the same time I know I’m lucky to be exhausted in that way. It’s why you love them. There’s no greater feeling than giving love and receiving love and that’s what we get with a family like that. Part of that package is when someone loves you is they want you to be certain things because they feel it will help you with another thing. So it was hard because you want to do your own thing as well and I think that’s why this film is being received by this broad, diverse audience, every age, every walk of life gets that thing of having a life, having a family and having these all out ugly fights all in the context of loving each other and at times loving each other too much. Did that answer your question? I feel like I answered another question.

KS: So the Patel Dating Service seemed very similar to a casting call. So would you rather have to go through the dating service again or a brutal audition process?

RP: You know that is a tough question. Oh man I don’t want to do either one but I’m still an actor so I still do that thing. But man I hate it. Auditioning sucks. First of all, it’s hard to audition cause you’re not actually doing the scene. Then you feel the desperation or the pressure of wanting it to work out and then there’s the added thing of even if you do amazingly you still won’t get it because there’s hundreds of people who did just as well. There’s all these factors that are out of your control. I think I have to pick the audition because I sure as hell don’t want to do that Bio-Dating stuff, it’s exhausting, but I’m glad I did it, life changing experience.

KS: Did you prefer the Bio-Dating or the online dating?

RP: I don’t know if I have a preference, they’re not that different. I know that sounds crazy but think about it: the online dating has all these filters, the only difference between the two is one of them comes with my mom managing the whole thing. I think we all could use a love manager.

KS: Did you ever think you would have to go through all these hoops to find the One?

RP: No. I think I went through all the hoops because I woke up one day and was like “shit, I don’t have these things.” We have an American thing that we’re born with here that relationships and love happens. It’s all of a sudden we grow up and here’s your love. You’re supposed to bump into someone, you’re holding a cup of coffee, and you bump into someone and spill it all over you and next thing you know you’re making out in the bedroom. That’s how we’re taught love happens. I think that’s why there’s so much divorce because once that’s gone people go “well I guess that’s over, not our fault” but really love is much more than that. It’s something you work for. Where my parents come from with the arranged marriage it’s not just about love, it’s about compatibility. It’s the idea of if we come from the same place we probably want the same things and if we’re headed in the same place in life we can probably go there a lot easier. And then commitment, this idea that the road is going to get bumpy on the way but there’s a bigger goal at play here and when you look at that, there is a practicle process behind it and even if you’re lucky to get love in the romantic comedy way it still takes those things to keep it and make it work. That was a good answer, I hope you keep that one.

KS: I think I will.

RP: We should tell other people about this answer.

KS: Getting the documentary into the world wasn’t necessarily a cut and dry process. Did you ever consider giving up?

RP: I did but it wasn’t about the documentary as much as it was about the process. I just got sick of working on it. I got sick of working with my sister and I got sick of not going to things because I was at home editing or doing whatever with the documentary. I would love to see a log of the hours that Geeta and I put into this movie. It’s just how documentaries are, I read somewhere that the average documentary takes seven years to make and that’s how long we spent. It’s hard. You have a ton of footage, you don’t know what it’s going to be until afterwards, then you have to edit it and make it interesting.

KS: What were you hoping the audience gets out of this film?

RP: I mean, I just want people to smile. I know its pretty simple but you know we made a choice to go deeper into my circumstances and not tell people what their lesson or takeaway should be because in any experience we all project our own in how perceive something. So you know for some people its going to be about dating and loneliness, for others its going to be about family, for other people it might just be about the comedy. I don’t really care, I’m just excited people want to see it and they like it. It’s a really good feeling.

KS: Do you have any advice for people in a similar situation of wanting to please their parents and worrying this person that you’re with might not be the ultimate for your parents?

RP: I unfortunately don’t have the handbook but I know in my experience what I did was I chose to communicate and to try to hold off emotion. You know the thing about conflict is its almost rare when everyone cares that you can have a reasonable conversation because someone always is going to be unreasonable, someone is always going to be emotional and so what it requires, at different times, is for patience and understanding.

KS: Would you say this experience was worth it?

RP: The answer is yes. The best and most important experience of my life. I made something I care about. That’s a fulfilling experience, to make something you care about and then for people to say “hey I like this.” There’s no better feeling than that, it makes you feel like you have a sense of purpose and on top of that to have it make my relationship with my sister closer, we’re best friends now, we’re a million times closer than I thought we ever would be because we chose to do something so hard together. It’s almost a metaphor for family and relationships. Then my family and I are a million times closer and now we get to have all this fun with the movie together. We’re doing talk shows together, it’s amazing. Big yes.

KS: Last one. What was it like having your entire family involved in the filming? Were they apprehensive to be filmed? Not just your parents but your general family? Was there footage you couldn’t use because they said they didn’t want to be in it?

RP: There was a lot of that. When they were apprehensive, we didn’t try to convince them. What we would tell people up front is like you know who we are so you should chose to trust us because we’re going to take this very seriously. We’re not going to stick a camera in your face when you don’t want it there. If we see something we don’t think you’d want in the movie, we’re not going to put it in. we’re going to try to be thoughtful and tasteful and are hope is when you watch it, not only will you enjoy the movie and love it but be proud to be a part of it. So far, so good.

 

            I know I personally loved this movie so much because it really is relatable all across the board. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself if you want a good laugh and to see something so refreshingly real and honest about dating. You can see Meet the Patels in theatres now