Meet The Patels – Interview With the Movie Cast – Ravi Patel, Vasant Patel & Champa Patel
“Insights from the Cast of Meet The Patels”
Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Ravi Patel, Vasant Patel & Champa Patel
Ravi V. Patel – Director/Writer/Editor/Actor
Ravi’s directorial debut is the real-life romantic comedy Meet the Patels. Executive Produced by Academy Award Winner Geralyn Dreyfous. The film features Ravi’s family and his comedic take on a sequence of events that involve his mother and his love-life.
As an actor, Ravi is most recognized for his work on Scrubs, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Transformers, Powder Blue, The New Normal, and is currently co-starring the Fox Series Grandfathered alongside John Stamos, which premieres this September.
Ravi also serves as Co-CEO of This Bar Saves Lives, which he founded with actors Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, Kristen Bell, Jimmy Kimmel, Emily Blunt, John Krasinsky, Kunal Nayyar, Alyssa Milano, Susan Sarandon, and many others. TBSL gives a life-saving meal packet to a child in need for every fruit and nut bar they sell. Ravi also co-manages an investment group, which focuses primarily on health, wellness, and social enterprises.
Prior to joining the entertainment industry, Ravi was an investment banker and later founded the popular poker magazine All In. He graduated from The University of North Carolina with double majors in Economics and International Studies.
Vasant K. Patel – Executive Producer
Executive Producer Vasant Patel has a diverse background in careers spanning from engineering to the arts. After receiving his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech University, Vasant spent over 40 years in roles including Design Engineer, Financial Advisor, and Career Consultant. In 1989, he founded the career-consulting firm CPResume, which within 3 years, expanded to four branches becoming the largest in the Carolinas.
In his semi-retired life, Vasant serves as the Founder and President of social club Life Is Great (LIG), which means to live a happy and meaningful life by maintaining a positive attitude toward life. He is also the Writer and Producer of the upcoming untitled romantic comedy… and his children and all their friends refer to him as “Yoda.”
(2:20): Hello everyone. Welcome to Intersections Match’s Talk Radio, a monthly holistic lifestyle show focused on the continual evolution into the best versions of our authentic selves.
This is Jasbina, your host. I’m a former practicing lawyer and the Founder of Intersections Match, the only elite national personalized matchmaking company focused on singles of South Asian descent nationwide in the US.
As a dating coach and matchmaker, I’m always interested in fresh perspectives from authors, researchers and experts to help me provide unparalleled service to our clients.
Tonight, we’re doing something a bit different. I had the pleasure of watching the award-winning documentary, Meet the Patels, with my husband the other day. I thought that all three of our guests, Ravi the film’s co-director and co-writer, and his parents and film co-stars, Champa and Vasant, would have valuable insights to share with our listeners today. I’m very excited to welcome the Patel family to our show today. Welcome, everyone.
(3:19): Thank you so much for having us.
(3:22): How are you, Jasbina?
(3:24): I’m doing wonderfully. I’m excited about this. The star was Ravi. Ravi, for those of our listeners who may not yet have had the pleasure of viewing your film, as a co-writer, will you share with our listeners a brief thumbnail sketch of what the film is about?
(3:47): The film is a documentary. It’s about a time in my life six years ago when my parents started setting me up with Indian girls around the country. I was flying around. They were matching me up with girls using these things called biodatas, which are the matrimonial resumes. Meanwhile, there was a girl who wasn’t Indian, who I had not told mom and dad about. The comedy takes off from there. Everyone’s calling it a real-life My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I feel very fortunate that everyone is able to laugh at my expense.
(4:27): Ravi, I think that is extremely timely. What led you to write this film? What motivated you to get this documentary out there?
(4:41): Geeta and I directed it together. Obviously, it writes itself because it’s a documentary. The reason why we did it was, there I was, almost 30 and newly single. We had gotten on this plane for our trip to India with the family. I was going through the depression that comes with any big breakup. Meanwhile, I was still hiding it from mom and dad.
All they were talking about was how crazy it is that I’m not married, and how it’s an international emergency that needs to be resolved immediately. I was talking to my sister, Geeta, who had just bought this new camera. We would have these conversations. I would say, “This is crazy that we go through this and that it’s totally normal for us to go through it.”
In fact, when I would tell my non-Indian friends that I had this white girlfriend that I didn’t tell mom and dad about, they would judge me. They would say that I was a really bad person. But if I went to my Indian friends and told them about her, the first thing they would say it, “Make sure you don’t tell mom and dad.” We’d have these conversations.
I thought it would be a good idea for a documentary. We took the footage after that India trip and sent it off to PBS. We told them we wanted to make something funny. They were really excited about that. The next thing you know, we were locked in. Geeta and I spent six years making this movie.
(6:23): Champa, let’s talk to you. I understand that you’re a matchmaker yourself. I would love to hear what you consider the most important factors and considerations in matching people.
(6:40): I think the main factors that play a role in a relationship are that you both need to have many basic fundamentals of life that are the same in order to be together. They have to be common in order for you to be together, like the way you live your life, your religion, culture, education and family. There is also somewhat financial status and family status.
All of this makes a match in finding someone. That is what I look for. When I do that, I normally ask the girl or boy about their education, where they come from and what their parents do. That gives me some idea whether this is going to work out or not. I believe while we go to college, we develop some skills and hobbies.
I think that can be learned, even after you get together. Let’s say I don’t like a sport. Once I get married, if my husband likes that sport, if I really love him, I start liking it. Today’s kids are doing many of these things the other way around. That’s what I look for.
(8:30): That’s interesting. What do you think are the greatest challenges for Indians of any age in this country who are seeking life partners? I will ask that of Ravi as well as Vasant, but let’s start with you, Champa.
(8:55): The biggest challenge I think the kids are facing right now is that they are no longer kids. They don’t want to get married until they are 30, 35 or 40. To me, by then, their ways are set. That is the biggest challenge. When you are younger and in your 20s, you have a way of learning, being flexible and understanding another person more easily. I find that their biggest challenge is adjusting with each other.
(9:32): Vasant, can you please weigh in? What do you think are some of the greatest challenges facing young Indians in this country in partnering up?
(9:54): I think it’s temperament. Some of the kids who grew up in America, like my kids, most of them are a little confused between both cultures. I don’t think they know which way to go. I really feel for them. They grew up in America. We have been in America for a long time. They want to be Indian but they are also Americanized.
That is one of the biggest challenges that they face. Another thing is that most of the kids don’t get married until their 30s, sometimes even in their 40s. They have lived their life alone so they feel comfortable living that life. They are independent. I think, the longer they take, the harder it becomes. It’s very hard to adjust with someone else.
(10:59): Ravi, I’d love for you to weigh in also. As that generation, what do you think are some of the greatest challenges that Indians face when partnering up?
(11:12): I think I agree with mom and dad. People are waiting longer and that obviously makes it more difficult to adjust. I also think that my generation is pickier than any other generation before. We are accustomed to having a lot of choices in every aspect of our lives. When you have more choices, you become pickier. When you become pickier, you’re less capable of choosing. I think that is a problem.
Then there is also a generational gap. It’s not necessarily unique to Indians. We want to make this generation above us happy and bring someone in who fits that. My parent’s generation is totally capable of accepting anyone, but it’s harder to find someone because they’re a little more set in their ways and conservative. You want whoever you bring in the family to get along well with them and for them to love each other. It’s harder to find someone who fits all those requirements.
(12:29): All three of you, whoever has an opinion on this, I’d love for you to weigh in. Do you think there are any different challenges for young men versus young women in this country today finding partners?
(12:48): I’m biased. I think it’s easier for women than for men.
(12:55): It’s funny because women think it’s easier for men and men think it’s easier for women. Let’s hear what a guy thinks.
(13:10): I would imagine it’s the same across both genders. The thing that we would probably all agree with is that, specifically Indian cultures are definitely tougher on women. That results in a few things. I think it’s harder for women. I think they have a double standard that’s much more difficult than men. I think, when you see females rebel, they rebel in much bigger ways.
My family is not like this, but there are conservative Indian families where you see the girl run away or do something so rebellious because she’s been oppressed for such a long period of time. I don’t know if that’s the rule as much as it is the exception. As time passes, I think everyone is becoming more and more progressive. I think part of it is realizing that everyone from my parent’s generation and after them came to this country. What do they expect? Of course things were going to have to change. You couldn’t hang on to what was in India forever.
(14:33): Tell me more about the challenges. What do the Indian guys say are their greatest challenges in general?
(14:50): Being bad at sports would be one of them. I need a quick background here. Are you married?
(15:00): I am.
(15:06): Did you make your parents happy?
(15:09): I would say I made my parents happy. I think that I can say this as an Indian. I think that Indians tend to over-exaggerate the commonalities that we all have based on any particular thing and under-estimate the commonalities we might share with others who may or may not share our background. That’s my view. I happen to be married to an Indian.
But how “Indian” is he compared to any other person? The fact that he’s Indian doesn’t tell me as much as it might tell someone else. I’m a firm believer in that. The more I do this, the more I think that. I deal with Indians predominately but I deal with non-Indians as well. We are matching our Indians with non-Indians on occasion, too. I’m looking at the gamut. I think we tend to over-generalize.
I’d like to hear from each of you on this. I’ll start with Ravi. What advice would you give Indians considering dating and marrying non-Indians?
(16:46): We tend to generalize that, because we come from the same root culture, it means that we have all these same things in common. The reason why Indians want to marry Indians is because we assume that means that we have the same family values. All of these things have nothing to do with the color of your skin but more to do with the way that you were raised.
If you’re going to go outside the culture, I think that’s totally cool. But if the culture matters to you and the family stuff matters to you, you want to find someone who is committed enough to your relationship, not just between the two of you, but with the family. They need to be willing to find a way to meet halfway, whether it’s learning the basics of the language or of the culture.
You also want to make sure that they have the fundamental things that you are looking for in that person of the same ethnicity, meaning the family values that I was just talking about. There are those basic things you need in a relationship, like wanting the same things in life, like kids and how you would raise them. That would be the first piece of advice that I would give. From there, I would say, “Good luck.”
(18:19): Champa, is there any advice that you would give to an Indian youngster who comes to you and is considering marrying a non-Indian?
(18:45): The advice that I would give is to get married at the right time because your biological clock starts ticking. If you get married at the right time, you are more able to adjust to the other person. I believe that if you have a mindset that you do want to get married and stay with that person, even if you have that much going, I think everything else will work for you and marriage will be very successful.
(19:24): Vasant, do you have any thoughts on this?
(19:29): I agree with her. I think it’s the attitude. If one wants to get married, they should have their antenna pulled out at all times. There are boys and girls always around you. You meet them, see them or hear about them. If you are really looking, you will see them. I hear too many times that some girl got married. Then you hear someone say later, “Oh my God. I wish I had asked that girl. She is the one I wanted but she is already married now.”
And they knew each other for a long time. We pass over a lot of opportunities, for whatever a reason. It might be a fear of rejection or indecisiveness. If one has a strong determination, they will find someone. I have no doubt. Girls want to get married. Boys want to get married. They all want to get married. What does that mean? They are all looking for each other. It shouldn’t really be that hard if their attitude, priority and focus is right.
(20:41): Let’s go to Indian parents. Vasant and Champa, I’d love for you to weigh in first on this one. Is there any advice you would give Indian parents whose kids are dating and considering marrying non-Indians?
(21:04): Again, I don’t think I want to specify Indian or American. In general, parents are parents. They love their kids so much that they would do anything for their kids. They want nothing but the best for their kid. The advice that I would give to parents is to try your best as a parent. Do what you need to do. I believe in karma.
I did. At the end, if that is not it, then I also need to have a peaceful mind and be happy about whoever they find. My advice for parents would be to do the best that you can for your kids, and then try to work it out. At the end, God always has a plan. He will make it right for everyone.
(22:06): Vasant, do you have anything to add to that?
(22:12): I agree with her. I think the parents need to realize that their job is to do their best to find the right girl or boy. If it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean they’ve failed. Their job is to do their best. If the kids try something else, you need to have enough respect for your kid’s opinion that they are mature, they are good and they can make their own decision.
They can be right as much as we can be right. I think kids also have to respect their parents and realize they want the best for their kids. Give them the opportunity and a little leeway in their thinking and opinions. Do take advantage of their years of experience. I think it goes both ways. I think it will help the relationship as well as their attempt to find the right partner if they do it that way.
(23:11): With what I do, I find that there are a lot of assumptions being made. I often encourage dialogue because the kids and the parents make a lot of assumptions in these matters.
Do you think there are any gender differences with respect to marrying non-Indian? Do Indian men and Indian women approach this whole thing differently? Ravi, I’d love for you to tackle that one first.
(23:53): These are tough questions. I think that mom and dad have strong opinions on this. Every Indian is very different. We’re all different degrees of “Indian-ness” and “American-ness.” I think it varies from person to person. These are generalizations. I hear Indian girls say things like, “I don’t date Indian guys. I don’t like Indian guys.” I’ve heard girls say that a lot.
I don’t hear Indian guys say that a lot. It’s such a clearly prejudicial statement that is rooted in what I was saying earlier. Because it’s a patriarchal culture and it’s harder on the women, I think they feel so forced to be with an Indian guy. As a result, oftentimes, you see them run away even faster.
(25:21): Champa and Vasant, do you have any thoughts on this. Are patterns you’ve seen with respect to marrying non-Indians? Do Indian men and women tend to approach it differently?
(25:39): I think the one thing that we notice in the community is that a lot of Indian girls have married Americans, but there are fewer Indian boys who have married American girls. I don’t know what the reasoning is. With Indian girls who married American boys, there is virtually no divorce. They appear to be very happy, too. I don’t know what works or what the reason is, but there is something there. It’s probably beyond my understanding. We have a lot more friends who have children where their girls married American boys. They appear to be very happy after a number of years.
(26:36): That’s interesting. Champa, do you have any thoughts on this? If that’s been your experience as well, then as a matchmaker, have you identified any reasons for that?
(26:52): What my husband said is exactly what we’ve noticed and talked about. The only thing I can think of is, when the Indian girls go out, maybe they saw something in an Indian house. Maybe they didn’t like the culture or they didn’t like how the mom was being treated. They thought, “I don’t want to be with a guy from India.” When the girl goes out and finds an American guy, the culture still remains.
They know that they control the kids and the house. The culture doesn’t go away. We do know many girls who have gotten married to American guys go to temple. They are in touch with the community. They have Indian friends. I think girls control the daily lifestyle. Men don’t control all of that. I call them mild or lazy sometimes. They don’t argue with the wife. They just go along. That is all that I have noticed in inter-class marriage.
(28:34): Ravi, do you have any hypotheses from your parent’s observations that you can come up with as an Indian guy?
(28:50): You’re putting a lot on me here. I don’t have an opinion on this. I’m hesitant to give one if I don’t believe in it. This is the first time you’ll ever hear anyone in my family not have an opinion on something.
(29:26): I saw pivotal moments in the film. I’m not going to do any spoiler alerts. There was a particular email in the film. I was talking to a client who had seen your film as well. I voiced, from where I sit, how courageous and self-empowered it was for the girlfriend in the movie to have sent the email that she did. I don’t want to give away too much for people who haven’t seen the film.
Ravi, if your girlfriend had not sent you the email where she said she couldn’t let the status quo continue, do you think you would have let the situation continue longer or did her email put some fire under you to process things and let your parents know what was going on? I understand that I’m leading this question. I’m a lawyer by background. I think this is super important for women to understand, of all ethnicities and ages. This is something I coach on often. Tell me about your processing as a result of that email.
(31:14): I think it motivated me, but it’s not something that I wasn’t already thinking about. The movie is more about achieving a degree of transparency and courage with my relationship with mom and dad, and having honesty there. That was something I was struggling with despite the email. The email definitely accelerated things.
(31:46): Certainly, that struggle was documented through the movie. I got the impression that the email put it on hyper-drive. You may have given yourself a bit more time without it. You can feel free to say that’s not true.
(32:11): No, I don’t know. I took enough time as it was. I don’t know. I’m glad it happened though.
(32:20): I would love for the three of you to weigh in on this based on your research, expertise or personal experience. What are the top three tips for South Asian singles in North America navigating their search for a life partner? Let’s start with Ravi.
(33:32): The first one is to decide what you want your relationship to be like with your family, not in the moment, but in the future when this person comes into your life. If you want that relationship to be where everyone gets along and loves each other, the thing about family is that we tend to love each other unconditionally.
No matter who it is that you choose to bring into your life as a partner, understand that your family is probably going to love you no matter what. The key to navigating that world, whether you find someone who is South Asian or not, is in how you communicate with your family. Find a degree of transparency within the relationship. Figuring out exactly what it is that you want will be premised on what you want in terms of the dynamic between this person you bring in and the rest of your family.
The second thing is, don’t bring your sister with you to film the process along the way. That tends to get in the way. My third thing is, don’t invite my mom to join the process. There will be more that will get in the way.
(35:02): He will not invite me in his process again.
(35:09): There is no invitation needed. These people invite themselves.
(35:18): Let’s get Champa on board here. What are your top three tips for South Asians to navigate this?
(35:40): I still believe that checking out culture and religion are important before you go any further. Don’t go for looks. Looks can be deceiving many times. The third thing is, if there are good basics and the fundamentals of the lifestyle match, then go for it. Love will develop as time goes.
(36:20): I want to go a little deeper. I can’t agree with you more that it shouldn’t be based on looks exclusively. When you said, “Looks can be deceiving,” what did you mean by that?
(36:31): Many times, kids are at a party or a bar. They see a girl and try to approach her. They get so lost in her looks that they forget the main fundamentals of the relationship that they need to have a marriage. For example, you like her because she looks very sexy. After six months, you find out she doesn’t want a kid. Then they have to let it go. If you don’t do the right thing first, looks don’t do any good. My husband always says that there is not a single divorce yet that we have heard of because he or she didn’t look good.
(37:42): Vasant, you were quoted by your wife. What else do you have to add?
(37:51): Let me expand upon what she just said. We all want to look for a beauty. Some kids say, “We don’t click.” When we show our children, they look at the biodata. They immediately look at the picture and say, “No, this is not the right one.” They reject or accept the girl based on how she looks. What determines the success of the marriage is not how she looks but how beautiful she is inside. She’s caring. She’s sensitive. She’s loving. She’s trustworthy and loyal.
You cannot see all of those things in a picture. If kids are at a party and they are shown a girl from a distance, they will say, “No, she’s not my type.” What they are really saying is, “She doesn’t look beautiful.” They do not want to take time to get to know her inside beauty. I think they lose out on a lot of candidates. Later on, when the girl or boy is married and they get to know them, they will say, “Oh my God. I wish I had approached them before.” They get to know the inside beauty. I think there is a big difference in those two. I hope they keep a proper perspective when they look for a match.
(39:29): I’m going to throw you in the fire, Ravi. Do you have anything to add as far as chemistry or physical attractiveness?
(39:43): I agree with what they say. I think there is more to any person, whether it’s for relationship or friendship. There is more to a person than the way that they look. I would also say that looks are important, to the extent that they are one small component of attraction. One of the things that the biodata system doesn’t take into account is the very basic concept of sexual attraction.
It’s because that concept of sexual attraction doesn’t exist in that model of marriage. It’s not something that’s considered significant. It’s not a factor. On a very basic human nature level, that is something that’s important. In American culture, we’re conditioned to almost entirely put all of our eggs in the attraction basket. We’re conditioned to believe that the way that we meet someone is supposed to be super romantic. It’s almost a passive experience.
All of a sudden, you meet someone and there is this magical moment. In the American model of marriage, we’re taught to believe that’s almost all that matters. When it goes away, all of a sudden, it’s not right anymore. I think that’s why we see so many divorces in American culture.
There is not enough emphasis put on the stuff that mom and dad are talking about, which is compatibility and commitment. I think all three things are important, attraction, compatibility and commitment. You have to be able to look at all three as a spectrum as opposed to just leaning on one of those pillars.
(41:44): I want to make a comment here. If a boy finds a girl who is very attractive and beautiful and doesn’t spend some time, a few months to a year, to get to know her before they get married, if they did not like the inside beauty then they don’t even like the outside beauty after a while. She doesn’t look as attractive as she once looked. You have to know about the inside. I think that is the difference.
(42:17): I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this. I’m a believer in blending what I consider to be the best of the East and West. I like to say it’s summarized in three “C’s.” There is the compass. What does a compass do? It gives you direction. Let your values and life goals guide you in your selection of who to date. That sounds similar to what Champa mentioned before.
Compatibility is hugely important. I believe that time and interaction has a role in revealing that long-term potential. I think that commitment is a decision rather than a feeling. It’s not from moment to moment. “I like him. I don’t like him.” I have found that, in terms of looks, we’ve all heard how visual men are.
I do agree with Vasant. In my experience, many men need to be attracted in order to look under the hood and see all the other great stuff. If they’re attracted, they’re going to do that. If they’re not attracted, unfortunately, it could be a missed opportunity. Chemistry can absolutely be blinding. I have seen all of that.
Are there any trends or implications that any of you foresee for South Asian marriage going forward in this country in the future? This is based on what we discussed and the things that you portrayed in the documentary.
(44:24): I think you’re seeing a lot of people marrying outside the culture. I think you’re seeing it work many times. I think it’s an acknowledgment of those three pillars that I discussed earlier. People in my generation are looking for all three of those things, attraction, commitment and compatibility. I think you’re seeing a lot of divorces coming out of marriages in which people were trying to fit the mold and then realizing later that it wasn’t enough. We’re in an interesting time. I think it’s all in the name of evolution.
(45:16): Vasant and Champa, do you have any thoughts on trends or implications that you foresee for your grandkid’s generation?
(45:28): My advice is to go and see the movie, Meet the Patels. It is all about everything that we just discussed, and even more. It is playing all over America and Canada. That would be my advice. Go to MeetthePatelsFilm.com and check out where the movie is playing or check out the trailer. What we just talked about was a very small part of what we covered in the movie. Those are real-life discussions and emotions.
(46:17): I think the film did a great job of hitting a lot of the issues that we see. I would agree with that. Does anyone have any last thoughts before I let you go?
(46:38): I think mom would tell everyone who is listening to get married.
(46:42): In your search to find the right partner, love them just like you love your child. That is the key to happiness.
(46:54): I do believe that one should get married. I think getting married is a wonderful thing. As long as you both love each other, marriage will not have any issue. Once that happens, marriage will last forever.
(47:14): That is a wonderful way to end this. Thank you so much, Patels, for joining us. It’s been a pleasure. In case you joined us late and you want to share this show with people in your life, I’d like to remind you that today’s radio show will be archived and available as a podcast on Intersections Match’s website, which is www.IntersectionsMatch.com. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate you hanging out with us.
Vasant, would you like to throw out that website one more time for Meet the Patels?
(48:37): Thank you so much. I appreciate you hanging out with us, everyone. Make sure to join us for next month’s show. Take care, everyone.
What do you think?
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