Canadian actor, writer and director Ravi Jain’s brings his highly acclaimed show, A Brimful of Asha, to the Melbourne International Arts Festival this October.
A Brimful of Asha, is the hilarious true story of a man whose Indian-born parents want only the best for him, whatever his thoughts on the matter. Derailing his work, arranging prospective brides and exposing their son to unending bouts of humiliation are all just part of their job description. What’s worse: even Ravi’s spotlight isn’t safe from his mother Asha’s meddling.
And speaking of his mother…she’s in the show! Aided by copious tea and samosas, mother and son take to the stage to spar over the supposed failure that is his life, delivering their respective takes on marriage and freedom, tradition and modernity. Stuffed full of humour and insight, this is the kind of battle only a deep love and affection can afford, and while Asha might not be the trained performer her son is, she’s a force of nature that will not be denied.
Read on as I spend 5 minutes with Ravi Jain:
How would you describe A Brimful of Asha to someone who knew nothing about it?
A Brimful of Asha is the true story of how my parents tried to arrange my marriage in India- and it didn’t go so well. Its told by me and my mum, who is not an actor and we argue about who lied, who is right and why Indian parents are obsessed with marriage. Its really about straddling two cultures and the clash of generations and values.
It was inspired by your relationship with your mother?
It was inspired mostly from the story and what happened, but yes, my mom being in the show is really kind of because of her. I was going to make this story a one man show, and when I told her I was going to show the world what a bad mother she was, she said I was an idiot and if an audience heard her side of the story they would understand her point of view… for the most part she isn’t wrong.
What will people take away from seeing the show?
We’ve toured the show for over 8 years now, and I think people really enjoy our relationship. The fact that my mom and I can talk honestly and poke fun at each other with humour is not something everyone has. I feel like it can possibly open the door for more understanding between the generations and the cultures.
If there is one thing you would like to say to Melbourne audiences, what is it?
I’m really excited for Australians to see the show. There is a large diaspora from South Asia in Melbourne, and I feel people will really relate to our story. Like Canada the Australian identity is a complex one with many immigrants and second generation folks who identify as Australian but live with another culture and traditions rooted deep in their lives. And it’s a good laugh!
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
I’ve had incredible mentors in my career who have really pushed me as an artist. They’ve encouraged me to run faster and jump higher and really to believe in myself. I’m in touch with many of them and continue to pass down the super power to the next gen- believe in yourself.
Who makes you want to create and direct and perform?
I love a good story and I love shaping that story for an audience to see and hear. I like making theatre for people who don’t often go- I don’t like pretentious stuff that can feel exclusive.
When did it become clear to you that the performing arts and entertainment were your passions?
From an early age I used to make plays at school and always tried to make people laugh. Performing is such a HUGE part of Indian culture, at parties, singing songs- I mean Bollywood everything! So, I was always up at parties my parents went to performing for all the aunties and uncles.
What does performance, creation and entertainment mean to you?
Theatre is an incredible art form that brings people together. For me, its about changing the world and inspiring people to be more empathetic human beings. We need to work harder to understand each other, to share spaces with each other even if we don’t agree, and be willing to hear each other out. Theatre is about inspiring people to feel more, think more and be willing to share space.
What are 3 words that describe you?
Curious, truthful, passionate
What are 3 things that would surprise people to learn about you?
I speak 3 languages- and dabble in a handful of others.
I LOVE watching cooking shows.
If I could eat pasta all day, I would.
What is next for you?
I just got back from Edinburgh where I show I co-directed called Sea Sick played, and it will have a very exciting future life- possibly coming back to Australia in the near future (it played in Darwin and Sydney). I am currently working on a new adaptation of the Sanskirt epic The Mahabharata, which will premier in aug 2020. It’s a HUGE story, the longest poem ever written and it contains the foundations of Hindu Mythology. I’ve been working on it for 4 years now and am excited to see it come to life!
A Brimful of Asha
October 9 – 13