Actor, writer and presenter Rani Moorthy has returned to the theatre stage with her newest play ‘If only Shahrukh Khan’.
The play tells the story of three Asian women residing in one house yet living separate lives. The only thing that brings these women together is their weekly Shahrukh Khan fan club meetings. Their lives are turned upside down when a young man arrives looking for his biological mother; the mystery is that any of the women could be his mother. Along with the Bollywood hook, the play incorporates themes of migration, identity, race and gender.
Malaysian born Moorthy first discovered her passion for theatre when she stood on the stage at school, she realised that being a minority meant that it was even more important to have your voice heard.
Moorthy said: “I just felt the power of my own voice that I thought this is something that I can do and communicate.”
It took her a long time to discover that theatre is where she wanted to end up, she says that: “I can look back at it now and think ok. The need to tell a story is stronger than ever for somebody who always felt like an outsider.”
Moorthy says that the play is universal as it allows women from all backgrounds to relate to the characters.
“With this play I realised that we as older women are teased, misunderstood and not considered to be funny or in use anymore and that’s the kind of voice we need to hear.”
She explains that the universal feeling of love, the love of family, safety and wanting to be valid and important are all emotions that she addresses in the play.
She also feels that as an Asian woman it is the Asian women’s voices that she is able to offer and portray to an audience.
Moorthy says: “The three women in this play feel like they have portrayed all their love and romantic love onto Shahrukh khan because they didn’t have that in their real lives, Shahrukh khan represents loss of their youth, beauty and so many things”.
The play also explores the theme of migration, Moorthy says that this play along with many of her others, allow her to present her culture and background to an audience “It allows me to look at who I am as an immigrant and the global idea of how we have all travelled.”
She says it’s a “Huge privilege” to be able to portray her background to an audience and to see how the cultural background of south East Asia can be used in the medium of English language theatre. “I bring a very different perspective, as in this case I’m exploring Asian culture through Kenya.”
Moorthy plays Kasi in this play and she says it might be way ahead of its time as people are not used to seeing Bollywood in this way.
“I think it’s very difficult to get an Asian audience to come to a theatre, unless its Shahrukh khan himself, and I recognise it as something we need to work harder on. The reason I write the way I do is because I want to entertain people, I want to allow people to be able to relate to what’s on stage and give them something to think about.”
She explains that the play is very funny but becomes dramatic as it goes on.
Moorthy also stars in the BBC One programme Citizen Khan, which is now in its second series, and says Mrs Bilal “Is a very interesting older woman, she’s always in the mosque and we don’t know where Mr Bilal is. People love her as a character I think.”
When asked what else we can expect from Rani Moorthy in the future she stated “More plays, more jalebis and fun.”
‘If Only Shahrukh Khan’ opens at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill from October 23-26.