Edinburgh: Two of the top-ten shows being two Indian plays While the entire world is in the grip of the Rio Olympics at this time of the year, the pilgrimage spot for the performing arts is undoubtedly Edinburgh. Every August, nearly 2 million art lovers make their way to the Scottish capital to feast on shows across diverse genres during the Festival month, every nook and corner of the Scottish city wearing true festival fervour. Ballets, Musicals, Cabaret, Stand-up Comedy and the best of world theatre.This year’s Fringe features the finest South Asian offerings in the mainstream.
Well-known stand up comic and Bollywood actor Vir Das brings his funnybone through a show titled ‘The Unbelievable Dishonest Indian’. Singapore-based The Bhumi Collective performs ‘Bhumi’, dance- production of traditional Malay dance with contemporary elements, that questions ethnic Malay identity in a modern life. Dancer-choreographer of Bangladeshi roots Akram Khan presents fusion of Kathak-contemporary dance with ‘Chhoto Desh’ and India’s now global face of theatre Mohammad Ali Baig’s two plays are touted by the Scottish media as two of the Fringe’s 10 most awaited acts. Bringing Indian theatre to the fore are ‘Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada” and the premiering ‘1857 Turrebaz Khan’, heritage plays by Hyderabad’s Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Foundation.
India’s ‘Quli : Dilon ka Shahzaada’ and ‘1857: Turrebaz Khan’ are billed as the stand-out shows of the season. While ‘Quli…’ has received recognition and acclaim from across several prestigious festivals and venues globally, Edinburgh Fringe played host to the world premiere of ‘1857: Turrebaz Khan’. The play set against the backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle in the 19th century marks a new chapter in the Foundation’s trademark tradition of producing medieval Indian historical epics. Scottish Asian Magazine names it “the ultimate theatre to celebrate this year’s India’s Independence Day” and lists it at top of the top ten acts of the fringe.
Audiences flocked to the Festival hub to watch both plays directed by and featuring Mohammad Ali Baig. ‘Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada’ again enchanted audiences with it being termed ‘visual poetry’. Its script in addition to the plush Indian decor and costumes, a grand set design by director Baig setting it apart from the other fare from the pick of the best from 30 countries. Mohammad Ali Baig was the very picture of the elegant beloved prince who became a visionary ruler, skilfully transitioning between phases in Quli’s life. Noor Baig was mesmerising as the brave Bhagmati infusing energy into the famous love legend.
In contrast to his performance as the confident and sensitive poet-prince Quli Qutub Shah, Baig leaped into the rags of a fiery, escaped convict as the Deccan’s revolutionary freedom fighter Turrebaz Khan. On its premiering night, audiences gripped their seats as they witnessed the hour long verbal duel between Turrebaz Khan and his captor Qurban Ali. Most striking about the performance set in an eerie forest is that Baig is bound by ropes to a chair. Tied up for almost the entirety of the play, the actor serves up an ace solely with his fiery delivery and flashing eyes, a simmering volcano. The play moves to London the next weekend for its London premiere.
With these transcendent plays and overall emergence of true South Asian voices, Edinburgh Fringe audiences delved into Indian culture beyond curry and bhangra with Foundation’s two plays providing an opportunity to the world to discover messages of universal peace and harmony, the quest for freedom globally through quintessential Indian stories.