Interview with Ravi Jain
A new show about the realities of arranged marriage and international views on it.
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Ravi’s trip to India couldn’t be more perfect. Until his parents begin introducing potential brides.
In this hilarious show from the director of 'Like Mother, Like Daughter', real life mother and son Asha and Ravi Jain share the stage to tell this true story of generational culture clash.
James Gilmore had the opportunity to chat to Ravi Jain about this thoughtful production.
James Gilmore: ‘A Brimful of Asha’, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
Ravi Jain: The show stars me and my real life mother, who is not an actress, and in it we tell the story of how, in 2007 my parents tried to arrange my marriage and it went horribly wrong. I was born in Canada, but my Mum was born in India and she immigrated to Canada – and so the show is really us, through the telling of the true story of what happened, dealing with the generational and cultural challenges of straddling two worlds.
James Gilmore: This is based on real life – what was that process like, turning a really difficult time for you, in real life, into a play?
Ravi Jain: When it actually happened it caused a lot of tension in our family – but we spoke a lot about it so we got over it. I saw a show from England where a guy did a show with his father and I thought it was such a brilliant idea and this story feels fitting, and kind of the perfect content, for the form. We got together and started doing it.
James Gilmore: You spoke about this culture clash: You were born in Canada, she was born in India and this show is taking place in England. What is it like trying to portray these massive differences in culture, on stage?
Ravi Jain: It’s actually really easy because you have one person from each side on stage – my mother is able to speak very particularly and directly to more traditional values and the ‘irreverent me’ who’s speaking a modern sensibility.
James Gilmore: Do you think that a show like this is important to the landscape, to allow people to understand the differences between the cultures.
Ravi Jain: Absolutely, and that’s what people tell us every night. It’s really rare to hear my mothers side of the story in her voice, in her perspective. What’s really great, and surprising to me, is that a lot of people sympathise with it and they understand it a lot more. Let’s be honest, in Canada and North America or the UK, the majority of the audience are on my side. What I think is so great is that, and what is so important, is that her side is represented in an authentic way and it’s presented in a way whereby it’s not stereotypical. Also, there’s no ‘terrible message’ – it’s an honest one about love.
James Gilmore: That’s true and I also think it’s really important that, especially in the UK, where everything’s got to be very PC, it is important to hear the other side even if it’s the less popular side.
Ravi Jain: Yes, absolutely.
James Gilmore: Was it difficult to get your mother to agree to take part in this?
Ravi Jain: It’s funny because my Mum’s actually quite a shy person. I was going to make it a one man show and I was going to tell the world what a bad mother she was! She said, “No, you’re an idiot if I was on stage with you the audience would agree with me and see what a terrible son I have”. I told her to put her money where her mouth is and it just started from there. We did these ‘scratch nights’ in front of audiences and the show grew out of our improvising in front of people.
James Gilmore: I quite like that story! With it being such a cultural show, it’s toured around North America, it’s been on a world tour, and now it’s in England. How has the audience reaction been different depending on where you’ve been?
Ravi Jain: In London I find that there are a lot of people who have immigrated here – so we get people from India, Greece, Italy, Israel, etc… All over the world who have just come here to start new lives. It’s so great to hear their stories dealing with this very same topic. Everybody says that my Mum reminds them of their mother, and it’s been a real treat to have such diversity and different perspectives in the audience.
James Gilmore: The show’s currently on at the Tricycle Theatre, which seems like such a perfect venue for a show like this. It’s a mixture between intimacy and just a really nicely sized venue which I think is fantastic at holding thoughtful productions, such as this.
Ravi Jain: The feeling of the show is as if you’ve come over to our house – that intimacy which the stage has is really perfect for the show. It’s like their sitting at the kitchen table! When they arrive, we great every single audience member – they come up on stage, we offer them a samosa. It’s just as if you’ve come over to our house and are about to have a chat.
James Gilmore: Without using the world ‘samosa’, in one word why should people see this show?
Ravi Jain: ‘Hilarious’.
For more details about 'A Brimful of Asha' and to buy tickets, click here.