NO Reservations
GQ India|November 2020
In Ravi Patel’s jocular, ever-expanding universe, any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely intentional. It is also a means to find answers to the big questions, discover parts unknown and build community. The American actor-creator of Indian origin weighs in on his extraordinary journey so far – from an investment banker to a stint in Wonder Woman 1984 – and his future capers on the road to world domination
NIDHI GUPTA

Anyone who’s worked with Seth Rogen has a Seth Rogen weed story. Ravi Patel’s involves having his life changed for the better. “Some years ago, I was doing a film with Seth,” says Patel referring to Long Shot, also starring Charlize Theron, “and he gave me a joint. I like weed, but I don’t smoke it all that much. So one day, when my shoot got cancelled and my wife and daughter were back in LA, I decided to take a ‘me’ day.”

This is circa 2018, a time Patel remembers being rife with sleepless nights, depression and acrimony at home. He’d been working hard to make it in Hollywood for over a decade. He’d followed his sister, film-maker Geeta Patel, to LA after he’d been laid off from his job as an investment banker in NYC. Patel jokes he was probably fuelled by “that immigrant desperation to succeed.”

In 2014, the actor-writer-director-investor was catapulted into mainstream consciousness with Meet The Patels, an autobiographical documentary co-created with his sister. Six years in the making, it captured a very real and bizarrely comical situation: That of his family’s journey with finding their 30-year-old son an Indian bride. Part Candid Camera, part Meet The Parents, it won resounding praise from all quarters.

When it arrived on Netflix, Meet The Patels was reportedly second only to the viral documentary Making A Murderer in popularity. The film displayed Patel’s unique comfort with being in front of the camera and a seemingly infinite capacity for humour. It figures that his major influences include Seinfeld, Arrested Development and anything by Woody Allen and Wes Anderson; all in evidence in the work he would go on to do. Patel mines his personal life, and that of his closest people, to tell authentic stories about the way we live now. The wisecracks are aplenty in this unusual anthropological project, and Patel is his own favourite subject.

After 2014, his career went into overdrive. “I was on the road for seven months of the first year of my daughter’s life,” he says over a Zoom call from his LA home. He was working on scripts, such as the feature adaptation of Meet The Patels; “producing three different things”; running This Saves Lives, a company he’d co-founded; acting in films and TV shows big and small, including Master Of None and Long Shot. “It had all become one big blur,” he says. “The thing is, in entertainment, when you get busy, you get busier.”

So there Patel was, on the couch in his empty home at 10am on that fateful day in 2018. He took two hits of his precious spliff and landed on another planet. “I realised two things,” he says. “One, if you’re not much of a smoker, Seth Rogen’s weed is not the place to start.” Two, that he was deeply unhappy. In this “Jerry Maguire moment”, Patel opened up a Google Doc, christened it “I AM SO UNHAPPY” and wrote down an aspirational business plan along with a commitment to improve his life. He began to see a therapist. He started keeping a gratitude journal. He’d decided he was going to invest more in his happiness.

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