For Asha and Ravi Jain, the stage is their courtroom of sorts and the audience their highly entertained jury.
The real-life mother-son acting duo from Etobicoke will return to Tarragon Theatre later this month for a repeat engagement of A Brimful of Asha – and this time they’re hopeful the audience will help them settle a nearly five-year-old spat.
Based on a true story, A Brimful of Asha chronicles a rift sparked between its two co-writers back in 2007, when Asha and her husband Ramesh secretly followed their then-27-year-old son on vacation to India and tried to arrange his marriage.
“Basically, I showed up in the city and got ambushed by the girl’s family at this place I was staying, and then my parents – who I thought were in Toronto – ambushed me in another city. It was a big surprise,” Ravi explained, noting that, luckily, he and this young woman were on the same page. “The girl was totally down to earth. She wasn’t interested in any wedding, either – but neither set of parents wanted to hear that.”
Fast forward a few years, and the old wounds from their fight have healed – but neither Ravi nor Asha are ready to concede they were wrong.
“When we patched everything up, we were ribbing each other one day about who was right about what happened,” Ravi said about the inspiration behind turning their argument into a play. “My mom’s insistence about being right made me say, ‘well, if we got up in front of an audience and told our story, who would they agree with?’”
“And they all agree with me!” Asha laughingly interjected during a joint interview with The Guardian this week.
Not so, said Ravi, while reluctantly admitting that the audience usually is more half-and-half than he expected.
“It’s a really fun show, because we spend all this time telling our story and talking about our relationship, so afterwards people really want to stay and talk to us – and they do take sides a lot,” he said laughing. “It’s funny, because it’s really split down the middle. I thought I’d win more.”
A complete newbie to the stage, Asha said she was compelled to play herself in A Brimful of Asha so that she could tell her side of the story.
“I don’t know where I got the courage, but I think it was because I wanted to tell people how I am the victim more than Ravi,” the Bloor Street West and The West Mall area resident laughed, as Ravi scoffed in the background.
“I can never understand why (kids these days) need to take so much time. I met my husband for only one hour, the next day I was engaged, and within 15 days I was married. And we are still together.”
Born and raised in New Delhi, it wasn’t until Asha turned 21 and married Ramesh that she moved to Toronto, settling in Etobicoke with her husband and giving birth to two boys – neither of whom were keen to marry on their parents’ timeline.
Still, she said, the experience of co-writing and co-starring in A Brimful of Asha has brought her to a whole new understanding of her son and his chosen career.
Although Asha was wary of Ravi’s decision to pursue theatre, being cast in the spotlight herself has left Asha starstruck.
“I’m starting to love it. My first time on the stage, there was lineups outside the theatre and I said to Ravi, ‘don’t these people have anything better to do in their lives?’ I didn’t understand,” she laughed. “But after performing 35 shows, I started to like it because of the love I got from people – every night they had nice comments.”
For Ravi, A Brimful of Asha has been a therapeutic experience.
“What I love about the show is that it was actually a really sad, painful fight between us, but the fact that we’re able to laugh about it – the show really is quite funny, because my mom is kind of hilarious – but that we can laugh about it is what I think is great,” Ravi said. “All families have stuff we go through, but we have to be able to remember that we’re family – and that’s what this is about for me.”
A Brimful of Asha opens at Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave., on Nov. 27 and runs to Dec. 16. Shows run Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $21-$53 (Discounts for students, seniors and groups) and can be purchased through the box office at 416-531-1827 or online at www.tarragontheatre.com