Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Rajesh and Naresh

ŠITE Productions

Genre: Comedy, LGBT Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Summerhall - Old Lab


Low Down

A gay romcom written from workshops conducted with members of the queer South Asian community in London and abroad. Exploring aspects of what challenges (Anglo) Indian gay guys face, through a classic boy meets boy structure, this had the audience cheering by the end.


This feel-good gay romantic comedy happens between two Indian guys, one who grew up in London, the other in Mumbai. As is often the case in romcoms, the two would-be lovers are smitten from first sight and indeed get it together as a relationship by the end of the drama. No big surprises there – it’s what romcoms promise. What is charming about this tale is that the our expectations for the two guys is reversed, in that, the one from London, Rajesh, who we would expect to be the liberated, out and proud one, is the one who struggles more to really be himself and tell the world, and his family, who he is. Naresh, from Mumbai, although not an experienced cruiser or flirter, at least has gay friends and is open about his sexuality, encouraged by the legalisation of homosexuality in India in 2018, the year before this drama takes place.

Cool, good-looking, apparently confident Rajesh has a decent job (we’re never really clear what) but keeps being passed over for promotion. Is it racism or doesn’t his face fit? To add to his frustrations, his mother keeps trying to match-make a straight marriage for him, oblivious to his real sexuality. His frustrations reach a peak and he accepts his mother’s suggestion to go to Aunty G in Mumbai and let his cousins help him find a match. Meanwhile, Naresh, a cricket bat trader, has finally dipped his toe in the new gay scene in Mumbai with little success or self-confidence. When Rajesh arrives in Mumbai he almost immediately bumps into Naresh, then again at the gay club (where would romcoms be without myriad coincidences?!) and the romance takes off. There are two twists to the tale I will not divulge, both of which save the play from being a light piece with heavily signposted and rather unconvincing, over-acted emotions. The two twists show that both actors are capable of authentic, moving emotions that get under the skin of the pain and very real dilemmas facing many gay guys in (Anglo) Indian communities. The two men are also both very inventive in their multi-character playing including a superb street cow (abundant in Indian cities), Rajesh’s mum and distant telephone voices.

Unfortunately, Rajesh and Naresh do not meet until over half way through the 60 minute drama, so the romance has to be crammed into a few short scenes, one with rather long, on-the-nose dialogue about what they both face, to allow us time for the final two twists. The play did not need to spend 35 minutes setting up their lives, families, friendship circles etc. This could have been done in five minutes and we could have spent 55 minutes on the romcom, which is what we all came for, instead of 25, after all a romcom doesn’t really start until the would-be lovers meet. But the shortened romance still hooks the audience and the two twists, with their truthful emotions brought tears to some eyes, and cheers at the inevitable climax. A feel-good gay romcom indeed and an insight into the lives and dilemmas of some gay Indians, in London and Mumbai.