January 16, 2021
Since his documentary Meet the Patels became a surprise hit in 2014, Ravi Patel has charted a career in comedy that has not only been marked with moments of side-splitting hilarity, but also infused with a raw honesty that sneaks up on you. In the past year alone, Patel’s work has transcended genre: from Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness, a travel docu-series which premiered on HBO Max last August to Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, a scripted comedy he developed for Netflix India. You may even recognize him as the prescient Babajide in Wonder Woman 1984; Aziz Ansari’s acting rival in Master of None, where they tackle whether or not to lean on Indian accents in auditions; or his turn as a pirate (yes, a pirate) in TBS’s Wrecked (2016).
But it's safe to say you probably know Ravi best from Meet the Patels. The film, which he developed with his sister Geeta V. Patel, chronicles his misadventures in arranged marriage. After a breakup with his non-Brown partner (a relationship he hid from his parents), Patel toys with the idea of finding love the way his parents did, through an arranged marriage. If his parents could build a happy life together after a five-minute conversation in the late 1960s, he supposes, there might be something to it. And so, with the help of his filmmaker sister, Patel forays into the world of matchmaking, from letting his parents circulate a flattering biodata to attending a Patel matrimonial convention (as his father assures, “It’s just like a business expo!”). And while the film may not have ended with Patel finding The One, it did introduce audiences to the inner workings of his family and whet our collective appetites for content about the arranged marriage industrial complex.
As Patel told me over a two-hour Zoom call from his home in Los Angeles, as he had his morning coffee, “In Meet the Patels, we got to see ourselves and our loved ones as characters in a story — as characters with strengths and flaws, and a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a beautiful thing that I would never have known to anticipate as being such a privilege, because you get this detached third-party view of yourself and the people you love.”