September 18 2015
That perennial question many will often shirk and shrug at and pretend not to hear gets a whole play to itself and a very original take…
By Tasha Mathur
AUDIENCE members at Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London are greeted with hot samosas and welcomed by Ravi and Asha Jain (pictured above) as they share their true experiences of the potential beginnings of an arranged marriage…
It’s a story we’ve all heard before. Whether it’s been your own experience or that uncle’s cousin’s wife’s nephew, there are always those nightmare tales of awkward attempts at arranged marriages for often resisting young Indians, particularly from the diaspora.
Yet, despite knowing the ins and outs of the dreaded biodatas, forced meetings and pestering family, “A Brimful of Asha” is still captivating from start to finish.
On the surface of it, the production consists of Canadian born and bred, Ravi Jain and his mother, Asha Jain sharing their story of introducing Ravi to a potential bride in India. With Ravi having recently graduated with a Drama degree, (much to the confusion of his parents…“People want to know what you do all day” – Mummy Jain) he travels to India in the hope of pursuing his dream of opening up his own drama company. However, his parents have other plans for him as they insist on him meeting Neha, the perfect potential wife. Cue the cringe worthy, but admittedly hilarious, scenarios that follow.
The uniqueness of this production is the fact these are two real people who are simply telling the audience their own true story.
This authenticity is evident right from the start as Ravi tells us, “There are no lines to tell here” and Asha apologises in advance for getting her lines wrong as she insists she isn’t an actress.
With the entire play consisting of two people, two chairs, one table, one TV screen and a story we’ve become quite familiar with, it’s the touching relationship between mother and son that keeps you watching. Despite Ravi’s frustrations, the pair share a bond that can remind every audience member of their own relationships with their parents or children.
However, amongst the light-heartedness of the story, the production does touch on the key issue of being stuck in between two cultures. While Ravi’s trip to India was more for business (or so he thought), he did also see it as a way of reconnecting with his roots. There is also a more serious moment where Asha explains her own dream of wanting to open a school but her studies were cut short when her family decided it was time to arrange her marriage, bringing her to Canada.
Furthermore, Ravi asks his mother key questions that I’m sure take place in many Asian households such as, “Don’t you have to fall in love before marriage?” and “Whose happiness is more important here?” Which highlights the generational clash between traditional Indian values and modern Western thought that is ever present today.
While people in the Indian community are very familiar with the modern day version of arranged marriages, many others are not aware of what goes on. Why? Because there is a secrecy to the process and of course, embarrassment if your son/daughter isn’t married yet which means that many aren’t willing to share their story. So how was this production possible?
“I told my Mum that I was going to make a one man play about this and SHE actually said she should be in it so she could tell her side of the story! The only thing we really had to do was figure out was what we could and couldn’t say to avoid offending the community,” Ravi told www.asianculturevulture.com
“A Brimful of Asha” allows Indian audience members a chance to laugh a little at themselves while also educating others on our traditions and values. And did Ravi and Asha both get their happily-ever-afters in the end? Well…you’ll have to watch it to find out!
It may return to the UK but this production finishes its week-long run on Saturday and a previous North American tour (September 19)
ACV rating:**** (out of five)