How the popular stage show ‘Rafta Rafta’ is set to thrill on the big screen
BRIT writer Ayub Khan Din’s last cinematic foray gave us the delightful double ‘East is East’ and it’s sequel ‘West is West’, so it’s no surprise to find there’s huge excitement ahead of the release of his latest offering ‘All in Good Time’.
The film – set to hit our screens on 11 May – is a hugely warm-hearted comic tale adapted for the big screen from the Olivier award winning play Rafta Rafta by Ayub Khan Din.
Centred around a close knit, larger-than-life British Asian family living in present day Bolton, All in Good Time stars Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones) and Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited) as Atul Dutt and his young bride Vina for whom the first taste of married life is proving far from straightforward.
Harish Patel (Run Fatboy Run) and Meera Syal (Anita & Me) reprise their roles from the original play as Atul’s parents, Eeshwar and Lopa.
And it was the huge success of the original play which led the way to its big screen adaptation.
“It all started with me going to see the play Rafta Rafta at the National Theatre,” says executive producer Andy Harries. “I’d heard a little bit about it, it had garnered some great reviews and it was absolutely packed. The play was very funny, very warm, very emotional and had a fantastic standing ovation. I thought, there’s something very special going on here, there’s something really entertaining, rather unusual, simple but very touching. It just seemed a really good idea to think about as a movie.”
Ayub Khan Din signed up to adapt Rafta Rafta for the screen and Andy Harries and producer Suzanne Mackie approached their dream director Nigel Cole.
Actress Meera Syal makes the transition to the big screen having played the character of Lopa in ‘Rafta Rafta’.
“The screen version is very similar to the stage version in that a lot of the dialogue has been kept,” she reveals.
“There are moments in the play which would have been three pages of dialogue on the screen but it’s translated very well. Ayub’s dialogue is so good and crisp and Nigel rightly wanted to keep a lot of that in.”
Syal knew from her experience on the stage that Rafta Rafta had a story audiences could relate to.
She says: “What we knew from the audience reaction is that it really hit a nerve. People flocked to see it because there was something very real, very moving and very funny about it. It just seemed to hit the zeitgeist in some way. I don’t know if it was because of the recession but people did want to see something that was about very basic stuff like family and love and commitment and father/son, mother/son relationships.”
Alongside Syal, actor Harish Patel also made the transition from stage to big screen. And unsurprisingly both were delighted.
“I always felt she is like my wife so we clicked during the play and also on the film,” says Harish Patel of Syal. “Because now we have been working together for years since 2007 so we are used to it, so we know when she’s going to give a look to me or I am going to give a look to her. She knows what Eeshwar is going to do and how he is, and there is understanding. We can anticipate how each other is going to react so we can prepare accordingly, there is a lot of improvisation. In one scene we were travelling on a bus and there was a big silence. Then I look out of the window talking and Meera is looking away and then suddenly we both look directly at each other it and it was not planned, it was an understanding.”
Syal is also full of praise for her co-star. “It’s been great working with Harish because he luckily has as good a memory as I do from all the stuff we worked on before. We have this great short hand which is useful if you want to convince people that you’re a married couple that have been together for years and years and have a rather love/hate relationship. There’s a deep love there but there’s a huge amount of exasperation as well, it was all there and we’d worked out a lot of business on stage, particularly the comic set pieces which we were able to replicate for the screen. It’s been a sentimental journey to bring all that back.”
Two new faces are lead stars Reece Ritchie and Amara Karan. The film required charismatic young British actors with experience as well as the ability to balance comedy and drama. “It’s hard to know what you’re looking for when casting but you just see them, you meet them and you go ‘That’s it,’ says Andy Harries. “We wanted to make the love story bigger than it was on stage. Reece had done The Lovely Bones and Amara had done a couple of movies and they just seemed right. Amara was in South Africa when we were casting so she put herself on tape and sent it to us as an audition. We’d seen some lovely girls but when her audition arrived, we looked at it and went ‘Wow that’s it, that’s Vina.’ She had such vitality.”
Producer Suzanne Mackie says of Ritchie, “In the screenplay we wanted to boost the love story element and that really meant exploring Atul a bit more. Who is he and why is he in this crisis and what is his relationship with his father? It’s also how the very complicated family dynamic might feel very familiar to lots of us. All the simple, subtle, difficult family dynamics that can really hinder you in life and hold you back. We wanted it to feel emotionally truthful and Reece Ritchie was an actor that we were very aware of, there was a lot of attention on him. He’s a very instinctive and versatile young actor. He could play comedy and pathos and he has that very rare gift of star quality. We’d just held the audition in a very noisy room and when he walked in the room lit up and I thought ‘’wow’. You very rarely see that.”
Ritchie was concerned about being the new kid on the block but his worries were soon banished. “A lot of our cast members did the play at The National and I was worried that it would be a case of, ‘Oh here’s the new kid, this is the way we did it on stage,’ but there was none of that. They’ve been so flexible. Meera and Harish and the other cast members have been great.”
Amara Karan, who plays Vina, loves the modern relevance this version has brought to the story. “The adaptation is wonderful in that it’s in an Indian family, and it’s set in the present day. There are so many similarities between the socially conservative element of Indian immigrant families and the 1960s English family. The fact the play can be adapted so beautifully I think is testament that the themes in the play are universal.”
All in Good Time releases nationwide on 11th May 2012