The patel family from "Meet the Patels." Photo Credit: Meet the. © Four in a Billion Pictures.

The Patel family from “Meet the Patels.” Photo Credit: Meet the. © Four in a Billion Pictures.

“At the beginning of the film, Ravi sees his life as a film. So we thought — let’s just go with it then.” But it wasn’t that simple, as Geeta expounds. “The coolest and most challenging part of it was letting the film have its own voice and not try to be a romantic comedy that we’ve seen before — that fine line where we needed to be careful that it didn’t go into anything contrived. We wanted to maintain this authenticity.”

And When Harry Met Sally?

Ravi and Geeta giggle like love-struck teenagers.

Ravi jumps at the chance to profess his adoration to what often receives the derogatory moniker: “chick flicks.” “We wanted it to evoke a sense of nostalgia…and part of that was creating an homage to the genre itself. When Harry Met Sally [elements] were truly intentional. We referenced a ton of different films of the genre. There are even less obvious references that people may not realize but were important to us.”

From the soundtrack to scene cuts to certain movie lines repeated across the American landscape, the brother-sister duo has brilliantly embedded their real-life story with nuggets of romantic comedy.

But they didn’t just pay homage to romcoms. They were, after all, making a documentary. A pivotal moment in the film is captured in a transcendent, misty, near ethereal scene in which we observe Ravi rowing a boat across a pond. I found it a strangely elusive nod to Moby Dick — and Ahab’s quest for the unattainable. I want to ask if they have a dog named, Queequeg, like Scully on the X-Files, but I refrain. How did the boat scene come about? I ask.

“We had all this stuff going on and decided it was time to have a talk,” Ravi says. “And we asked: why don’t we go have this talk on a boat?”

“Why a boat? Moby Dick?” (I couldn’t help it.)

“I think it’s interesting that you brought up Moby Dick,” Geeta says. “Because we felt that kind of meaning — a man in the water, away from everything, moving, and thinking about himself.”

But it turns out there were other works of art at play.

Sherman’s March, a documentary written and directed by Ross McElwee and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1987, turns out to be one of their all-time favorite documentaries. (Always the romantics, these two!) It’s a gritty, cinéma vérité journey upon which McElwee sets out to trace General Sherman’s path through the South during the Civil War. But McElwee’s personal love life takes center stage, as he reflects on his recent breakup and meets alluring women along the route.

Ravi becomes dreamy as he describes “this beautiful scene where he’s sitting out on a boat and floating down this river. It’s one of the most pivotal moments in the movie. And then his protégé, Nina Davenport, made a movie called Always a Bridesmaid, where she uses that same shot.”

“Ravi really loved those two films,” Geeta adds. “Their boat scenes were so beautiful — spiritually.”

Just as Geeta draws on the emotional, things seem to get too intense again for Ravi.

His stand-up routine tries to water down the moment, “But you also just caught us on a really, really nerdy insert.”

I assure both that I am just as nerdy.

In a special way, Meet the Patels is really about the love between family — and the love between brother and sister. Although Geeta is camera shy, she walks the journey hand-in-hand with Ravi. She shares with him her doubts, fears and inconsistencies when it comes to understanding love just like a big sister would for a little sister. She grows irritated with him when he seems to go off course (he does once or twice), and Ravi comforts her when their mother pressures Geeta to get married, “It’s hard on us, dear! Just help us out!” Champa’s voice urges through the speaker on Geeta’s pink iPhone.

I ask Geeta if she’s come to understand what love is.

“I’ve definitely come closer. I think the love that we have in our family made it clear that any kind of love requires what we have in this film with each other. It’s an interesting way to look at a film. When we were editing it, Ravi said, ‘Oh, I really think the film is a romantic comedy, except the girl here is mom and dad.’”

We all laugh in agreement.

Geeta continues, “[The film] is really Ravi’s relationship with his parents. And we embraced that. I think when we talk about love, yes, we’re talking about what love is in the context of being single, but I think we realized that love is 1) making a choice, and 2) love is trying. That’s the biggest thing that I learned. I never thought I could be this close to my family in a way far above what I ever imagined. And I think that’s what love is — not stopping. You have to keep trying and actually try to get those knots to go away and keep believing. It is such a complicated process — spiritually speaking. That told me what love is.”

I give Ravi the opportunity to respond to my question. Ravi, ever the jokester (and still shy to love), replies, “I think that was a beautiful response and equal parts verbose.”

Which brings me to the close of our interview, and the question anyone who even watches the trailer wants to know: Did Ravi get married?

“That’s not an uncommon question!” he says as if on cue.

We all laugh. And I’m waiting in anticipation…

But Ravi is a businessman at heart (he holds a degree from the University of North Carolina in economics and international studies, and prior to entering the entertainment industry was an investment banker), and he stalls before responding. “For the sake of the movie, I’d rather keep it in suspense,” he says with the conviction of a movie executive.

And Geeta, acting the protective older sister, asks shyly, “Is that okay?”

Video courtesy of Meet Patels.

For more information about the film, inclusive of screenings, please visit the official Web site.