In Conversation with Ravi and Geeta of Meet the Patels

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Now open and selling out shows in theaters in NY, California and Chicago, the award winning real-life romantic comedy documentary Meet the Patels is expanding its theatrical release to theaters in new markets nationwide this Friday, September 18, including New Jersey, North Carolina, DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Detroit.

Co-directed by Geeta and Ravi Patel, this hysterical and heartwarming documentary follows Ravi’s journey to find true love. Joined by their wonderful parents and fabulous commentary from Geeta, who is behind the camera and heard but not seen, the film is about family and about finding love be it for your parents, your sibling or your happily ever after romance.

We here at BollySpice loved Meet The Patels film and you can read our rave review here.

I was able to have a fabulous, funny and open in-depth conversation with Ravi and Geeta about Meet The Patels. Check it out!

To set the scene, let’s first show you the trailer

Scene One: The Beginning

Why did you want to show and tell this story?

Ravi: This whole movie started as a home movie. We were on a trip to India and I had just broken up with this white girlfriend that I had been hiding from my parents for two years and here I was almost 30 and they were breathing down my neck… ‘You have to get married’. I think it is interesting because my Indian friends all know what that is like. They get it inside and out. It is really one of the most prevalent issues of my generation in our culture. But for someone who is non-Indian you would get a different reaction from them on hearing the story. So for example, lets say some American friend of mine found out that I had been hiding my white girlfriend from my parents. Immediately I would be judged – you are a bad boyfriend -you are a jerk. But if I go to an Indian friend and I would say, ‘Yeah I have this white girlfriend.’ They would say, ‘You didn’t tell your parents, did you?’ You can see that these are opposite implicit reactions. But Geeta and I co-exist in both these worlds. It felt like this could be a story that would be really entertaining and interesting. Also interesting because the nuances would show in different ways for different groups.

Geeta: I think we also made the film because it is about being lonely and looking for love. Even if you are in a relationship you are sometimes still looking for love and trying to figure out how to keep love alive and be happy. We made this film to share with people because we feel like family is so important. We feel like relationships are so important.  We feel like divorce rates are at an all time high and we are kind of in crisis in America. More and more people are choosing to be alone, more and more people are suffering depression, people are choosing not to have families, not to be in families because it is just to difficult. There is all the media out there right now that has all been about dysfunctional families and how it is cool to be like that. For us, we really do believe in family and in love. So I think we made this film because for us it was also a way to reach out and inspire change.


Scene Two: A discussion on the development of Meet the Patels

From that first home video to know getting ready for theatrical release is the film what you thought it would be in the beginning?

Geeta: The film, I think, is what we thought it would be and that is the coolest part.

Ravi: In essence, but it is not what we thought it would be in premise right? We thought it was going to be more journalistic something like Spurlock (Supersize Me).

Geeta: Yes, more of a Spurlock/Michael Moore kind of thing. See originally we really didn’t want this to be about our family or even about Ravi’s life.

Ravi: I think we thought it was going to be more like we were going to be interviewing Jewish families, Irish families and showing the similarities, generational conflicts and things like that. We did want it to be funny.

Geeta: Yes, we did always want it be funny. As Ravi said when we first were going to make the film we were going to make a journalistic film. When we saw the footage coming out of our home video we realized very quickly and so did PBS, our first funder, that this was better as this quirky intimate non-traditional film. I would say within a few months of when we got back from that trip we pretty much knew the story and committed to the story being about us. It just took us six years to get there, but we both knew in our hearts what we wanted we just didn’t know how to do it yet.


Ravi: The essence of the film is kind of us seizing the moment. Like initially when she was just screaming at the camera and trying to learn how to use it. Then as it developed we see the complications, the conversations between siblings, and the kind of irony that the person behind the camera is going through the same thing if not worse. I think that was kind of the beginning of it.

Then the next point of the evolution was us saying okay what if there was a way we could genre-fy it and turn this into a romantic comedy documentary. What if we could do that structurally and tonally and then really put in fun music and make it something that families can sit down and enjoy.

We were inspired by all these romantic comedies and we directly referenced them in the film: When Harry Met Sally, the couples’ interviews were referenced by that. There was a montage moment that was homage to Notting Hill; obviously there is Dirty Dancing and Jerry Maguire and Say Anything, which we referenced with actual clips within the animation. Every film or every filmmaker that we have loved we have ripped off (laughs) or referenced really in some way.

Geeta: Speaking of the part where we have all these interviews in the film, I remember Ravi said, ‘Geeta, let’s try something, let’s only put in the interviews that are entertaining’. Some of them were just too heavy, too informational and it didn’t really have that romantic comedy feel any more. So we said, the rule is that it can only be in there if it makes you laugh or if it makes you cry, it can’t just be information. When we did do that we were like Oh My God this is perfect. That is where we found the sweet spot of the film, I think, making sure there was a depth, there also was an entertainment factor and a strong visual feeling with almost every clip you saw.


Scene Three: Animation

Geeta: The animation actually didn’t come easy. It took a long time and lots of mistakes before we found that voice to the film. That is the thing, we both knew in our hearts what we kind of wanted it to be but we really didn’t know what that was until we got there. You don’t know sometimes until you hit it. We kept trying things and going no, no, no, that is not it – let’s try this – well that’s not going to work. Radio was a big influence on us and we thought okay radio is a way to go.

Ravi: The animation was inspired by American Splendor. And even This American Life. The ability to create radio story telling that is so visual in the way it was filmed is something that we really wanted to achieve. We spent so much time telling those stories over and over again until we had a really strong radio cut and then we laid the animation on it.

Scene Four: Being Vulnerable

Ravi was it hard to be that vulnerable and let yourself be because even though you are an actor this is you not a character?

I don’t think it was. There were actually a lot of people who were concerned that because I am an actor and because I am also co-directing that that might create some bias of how I might “perform” on camera. But that actually was the argument I would use for why I was so comfortable. Because I am an actor I am so comfortable in front of a camera I think I can be myself and not notice it. And because I was co-directing and because it was with my sister I had 100% trust that there was nothing that was going to misrepresent me or be taken out of context. I knew that for whatever this story was going to end up being, I knew that the only way, whatever it was, it was going to be good, is if I was my most authentic vulnerable self on camera. So you know I tried my best to just be myself. Though I will say I do have a tendency to perform more when there are more than a few people around anyway, but that is just who I am. (Laughs)


Geeta: We have videos of when he was a little kid performing for the camera. Posing for the camera. Those are really fun! But he was really natural.

We did struggle with how vulnerable Ravi was and our family was in the film because it felt really to close to home. At the same time while we were filming it we had that feeling that it was for a larger cause and it was the right way to go. You know, the internal knee jerk reaction is oh no, no, this is to close, this was to imitate with me and I don’t want to think about this, but at the same time I think we were hoping that people would respond. We felt like when you watch a film and it resonates and it makes you really feel something – that lasts longer than anything else. So it felt like it was important to be vulnerable. It is really exciting to get to place where we can say, ‘Oh yes it was definitely worth it’.

Scene Five: Mr. and Mrs. Patel

I loved your parents in the film. How was it to work with them and how did you film them?

Geeta: They are so great. I think that was the impetus to actually make the film as well was because we felt they were great, we found ourselves going and talking to them. We didn’t know if anyone else would think that but we definitely felt like they were magical people.

It really was a home video that this whole film started as and it continued to be a home video. Even though we were making a documentary it never lost the home video feeling in every way. As you saw it, continued to stay raw, it continued to be like half committed with the filmmaking where we would pick up the camera and not even use lights sometimes to just get the moment. It made it comfortable. You don’t feel like there is this “Action!” moment to it. It was never that. It was literally sometimes they didn’t even know the camera was on.

I would say this is the one and only time in our lives that their lack of faith in our ability of filmmakers was a positive. (Laughs) We kept saying we are making this documentary and they were like, ‘Oh documentary whatever… Just get married!’ They just didn’t really take it seriously. You know Ravi and I both have been in the arts for a while and we were always kind of making little films and talking about our stories we are working on. I think their thought was this really was a side project, they really didn’t think it wasn’t going to amount to anything especially when it was taking 4 years, 5 years, 6 years. And at some point it was more like an annoyance to them and to the point where they were saying ‘this is why you are single because you are talking about this and you are using the documentary as a way to avoid that.’ They really didn’t think the documentary existed on some level. I think maybe it was year 5 we said, ‘Hey guys, we finished the documentary’ and they were like ‘What? Wait really?’ They seemed to be really in shock.


So what did they think of the finished product?

Geeta: They Loved it! They had nothing to say but Oh My God, Oh My God. They were completely in shock! We were really nervous about what they would think because they are both so completely raw in it. Many times they weren’t really aware that we were filming them and that this would amount to a big theatrical film. Mom’s only reaction was, if I knew it was going to be a big film I would have changed my outfit! I mean you see her in her pajamas for half of it so it was really funny. They are having the best time! And completely still, I think, in shock of what it has all come too.

We are too actually. This was just a really small film. We had a hard time getting it out initially. No one wanted it. We had a hard time getting it into festivals. It took a couple years to get it into festivals but then finally when we had our first screening the audiences really put us on the map and for a year the film just sold out across the world at every festival it went too. And that is really how the buzz grew, it was just word of mouth, and now it will be in theaters because of that!

Ravi: Now it has actually turned into word of Dad’s mouth! (Laughs) He works ten hours a day on this movie. It is the cutest thing I have ever seen. But it also he turns out to be literally really good. I feel like he could be hired to promote anything. First of all he ordered these yard signs that say Meet the Patels on them, which is a very cute idea. He just said, ’You guys are not doing enough… I am going to take over’. He ordered like 1000 of these yard signs, I have like 300 hundred at my place and you would not believe it but we are getting 20-30 a day of emails texts, Facebook posts of people putting them up in their yards. The more they go up the more people are asking about them. It has been amazing. They are running like a call center out of their place where all their friends are coming over and they are calling other Indians and then they are running call centers. It is like our little hashtag change campaign. Isn’t that amazing? It is so cute!


Scene Six: Resonate

This film, I think, resonates not only with South Asians but also with any one because at its heart it is about family. Did that surprise you that people have responded that way?

Geeta: Yes. That has been such a surprise.

Ravi: Yes and I think that is actually why it has been something that has been so broadly acceptable in a way we really did not anticipate. We thought we were making a movie that was very specifically for Indians, but we have sold out every screening in the last year and it was 90% non-Indians. They loved the movie! I think what we are starting to realize is that people are relating to it because this is about love, it is about family. There are some specifically Patel things about it, but people are seeing and saying my parents are just like that or I know what it is like to have conflict with my family or I know what it is like to be lonely. It has been really cool. People from all walks of life have said, ‘Oh yeah, this has been my story’.

Scene Seven: Coming Soon

Ravi, can you tell us about your new show Grandfathered that stars John Stamos.

Yes, I play John’s buddy and the head chef of his restaurant. It is a fun half hour comedy. I am working with really great actors and good people. John is just a sweetheart. My mom and dad love to visit me on the set. They were there like a week or two ago… for the free snacks I am sure. (Laughs) Mom probably walked away with 8 free bananas. (Laughs) After they would say cut and Mom and Dad where there and John really spent a few minutes with them. In fact, he was giving my mom acting lessons! It was so sweet. He is so busy and he has got a million people asking to take pictures or do interviews or what ever else and it was really sweet that he did that. I think that speaks to how cool of a guy he is.


What’s next for you Geeta?

I have a background in action films and political films so there is a film that I have been working on that I have been developing called Mouse. It is kind of like a Martial arts hero in a war zone – kind of thing like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon thing. That one is I am hoping to get off the ground soon. In the meantime, Ravi and I are working together again, as miraculous as it might be. See while we were making the film we fought like cats and dogs, we had this moment where we both made each other cry and we said we would never work together again. We both realized that we had to love each other more and to really commit to our relationship. We had to work harder on working together and that is really what got the film to the end. When we finished the film, we said goodbye, we are so glad we finished this movie but okay we are not going to work together again. But through this whole process, and we did not realize this until about a month later, we actually had built a relationship that we wanted to work together again. It is so cool and now we are having so much fun. We do have another film we can’t announce it yet. It is kind of a dream situation. It is a scripted film that we are going to be writing and directing and then we have a TV show that we also can’t announce yet but we are pretty excited. So it is really an awesome, awesome time and for me and for him too… I think there is nothing really more beautiful than working with the people that you love the most. And he LOVES me! (Laughs)

Ravi: What I am sorry I was texting…. (Laughs)

Geeta: It is such special experience for Ravi to work with me, he learned from me and I really made him a better person

Ravi: I am sorry I was not paying attention (Laughs) Oh I am so sorry that was so rude of me (Laughs!)


Scene Eight: Release

So now it is getting ready for theatrical release what are your feelings?

Ravi: I’m nervous. I am so nervous! It is crazy because there is so much support and every person I have ever met, without no incentive has been so helpful. You know, we have been getting these incredible reviews. It feels like there is nothing but good energy surrounding the film so I am trying not to care to much about how we actually perform because we already have been successful in every really way that matters. But at the same time it is hard not to think about Um, I hope the theater is not empty. (Laughs) My favorite moment is just right now. There is so much buzz. All the family has been traveling together. Mom and Dad are turning into a miniature Brad Pitts. (Laughs). It is pretty cool. I am just trying to be. You know we are all putting in a lot of effort to get the word out to get people to see this film and I am just trying in the middle of all this to take pause and be present and grateful because in a couple weeks this could all be gone. I hope I don’t ever regret how I experienced it.

Geeta: We really want people to watch it and feel what we feel not only while making it but also while watching people experience it. All the Q&As that we did and the festivals we have been to in the last year we have seen how the film has been a really wonderful catalyst. Not only is it entertaining, but it feels like it has been a feel good force and that is what we are in it for. We really do believe in family. We want people to feel the love. And that is what life is all about. Life is about family and we are loosing that right now, everybody is loosing that. We ourselves in the course of making this film, Ravi and I, and our parents, we basically created and worked for a relationship that is unbelievable. You saw the story that is absolutely the most pivotal and important moments of our lives. Our relationships are so better because of it. I think we are just kind of part of the converted.


Be sure to checkout to find out if it is or when it will be playing at a theater near you! This is a film you don’t want to miss!





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