An Indian-American man who is about to turn 30 gets help from his parents and extended family to start looking for a wife in the traditional Indian way.
Directed by Ravi and Geeta Patel
Initial Review by Phil Crone
One of the things I’ve always asked my friend about was marriage. He had very specific criteria; so specific, it made us laugh. Playing the violin was on his list of “musts” for example. Again, it seemed oddly specific at the time, but as I’ve gained more insight into the process of marriage in India, it doesn’t surprise me anymore. Ravi Patel asks himself, and by extension the audience, whose system of courtship makes more sense: India or the Western world? We ultimately find that the two have converged more than we would like to think. Personally, I’m a fan of the concept of online dating. If a person hasn’t met their partner by the end of college, the opportunity to meet someone organically has dwindled greatly given how much work is now done remotely and how many social opportunities have migrated to cyberspace. At this point, there’s a good shot if someone meets their match when they’r over the age of 23, they’re going to meet them online, and the “new Indian system” looks like nothing more than your usual online dating with a little more parental oversight. I always find it fascinating when cultures borrow ideas from each other to create something that seems to be “new.” While it isn’t a focal point of the story here, it generates from the man plot and provides a fascinating look into how old ideas create new ones.
Ravi’s story is a much more personal one though. He’s torn between a pretty common dilemma: should one marry for love and allow it to conquer all in the cultural aspect? Or find a mate that fits into Ravi’s vision of his future being similar to his past? Ravi has a deep connection to his Indian culture, something that Audrey did not and may not ever fit into, thus creating the inciting motivation for the movie. I was happy I watched this with my wife, who still retains several vestiges of her Mexican heritage. I really enjoyed the snippet where the interracial couple is interviewed regarding the compromises they had to make, and that stuff is true. Even years later, both of us can’t help but feel like outsiders at family gatherings for the other. Sure, the families don’t necessarily treat either of us as pariahs and assimilate us into things to the best of their abilities, but you still can’t help but feel like you’re in “foreign territory.” There are those cultural differences we’ll just never understand about the other. They can be as minute as the teasing I get when I hurriedly turn off yet another ranchero song or the mispronunciation of some obscure Spanish word, or as large as not understanding why I need to tell my grandma or aunt about something happening in my life or that a life’s worth isn’t counted by the number of offspring you usher into this world. Cultures don’t necessarily need to be divided on race either. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard have the baptism debate because one is Catholic and the other is Methodist.
Now, Indian culture, that looks like a much tougher nut to crack than Mexican-American to me. Ravi’s dilemma is very real thanks to how Indian culture is presented. It’s all about large families obsessed with the idea of family. Thanks to vestiges of the Caste system still permeating parts of India, who you marry trumps whatever feelings may or may not exist. The Patels are portrayed as Indian aristocracy in that regard. Unlike other royalty though, the Patels help each other out. Whether it be first-class logging, maybe a great career opportunity, or finding a suitable mate, being born a Patel is like hitting the genetic Indian jackpot. It’s easy to understand Ravi not wanting to jeopardize that.
We do at least end up with what appears to be a happy ending, as Ravi ultimately chooses Audrey and is able to have her at least accepted by his parents, which seems to be enough for him for now. I’d be curious to see how that works out whenever he takes her back to India for the first time to meet the rest of the Patels. Ravi’s story proves that even though cultures may dictate one thing, it is ultimately up to us to shape our personal culture. The nucleus family all seems happy with how everything turned out, and while there’s a question about how the extended family will take it, I believe most people see past the surface and cultural differences when forced into a situation. Just like online dating, we can get some pretty good ideas when cultures collide.
+ Interesting look at a world many of us are not exposed to
+ For first-time documentarians, Ravi and Geeta excellently create a narrative
- It’s pretty raw given, but that’s forgivable
- Animation interludes were a bit distracting