‘Rajesh and Naresh’ at the Edinburgh Fringe review – Queer Indian drama is unsure of itself


Rajesh and Naresh struggles to find the right form. Exaggerative in its comedy, raw in its focus on a gay cultural romance, and with a sprinkling of interpretative dance, it is tonally and stylistically a production which tries to do so much with so little.

Rajesh (Brahmdeo Shannon Ramana) is a British man with Indian heritage, a London job and a pushy mother who is insistent on him finding a wife at the earliest opportunity. Naresh (Madhav Vasantha), meanwhile, is a maker of cricket bats who loves the sport. Together, they have a shared admiration for Queen and Freddie Mercury.

The set is minimalist, as are the secondary characters. Where one plays a main character, the other voices a friend, mobile sound effects, or the whining of a mother down the end of a phone. Often they only need a headscarf or a change of shirt to embody another individual and while that is impressive, the characters are often larger than life in their portrayals.

The dialogue also falls into telling, not showing, as the first encounter between the two involves Rajesh informing us his phone is failing to help him locate his hotel, rather than suggesting his mobile isn’t working through gestures or other means. At one point, Naresh dictates what another character is doing as it happens, disjointing the narrative of the rest of the play. It is indecisive.

That, in turn, means we’re not sure how to interpret what’s in front of us. Does Rajesh and Naresh – boldly billed as “Bend It Like Beckham meets It’s A Sin” intend to be a serious representation of Indian LGBTQ+ romance (of which we still don’t see enough), or a more comical look? The hesitation in the show, unfortunately, means its impact is somewhat undermined.

Rajesh and Naresh is now playing at Summerhall, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 14 August.

Photo: @RajeshAndNares1/Twitter.

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