Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada

The intimate SpaceTriplex Studio, tucked underground beneath Edinburgh’s cosmopolitan centre, is an appropriate home-from-home for Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada. Though framed through the unlikely love story of a prince and a temple dancer, this 45 minute offering from Mohammed Ali Baig tells the tale of how another multicultural capital - the old Indian city of Hyderabad - came to be.

A charming piece of international theatre, and its Edinburgh debut serves as a charming introduction between two cities of pluralism, art and freedom.

A gentle mix of music, poetry and theatre, Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada provides an enchanting, if not particularly thrilling, evening of story-sharing. The set is understated but inviting, decked out with plush Indian fabrics and dappled with rich hues of red and purple lighting. With only the quiet strain of police sirens managing to infiltrate this subterranean venue, the show is an ideal serene escape for those looking to be gently transported from the heaving hustle of the Royal Mile to the inner chambers of a prince’s palace.

From this opening visual follows a similarly sweet and soothing recount of Quli’s ancient love legend. The lovers, played by Baig and his wife Noor (who also co-wrote the show), guide us almost single-handedly through the story of their encounter. They alternate pleasingly between playing the elderly married couple reminiscing fondly, and the young lovers which exist in their memories, though the contrast occasionally lacks a certain crispness or confidence. Whilst Mr Baig is a calm and confident presence as the sensitive, poetic Quli, his delivery of lines tends to glide along at the pace of a pondering philosopher, and never manages to hit the desired climactic stride. Though the show’s desire to take its time is undeniably part of its charm, Baig’s leisurely use of pauses sometimes verges on the wrong side of lulling - which can prove challenging for an audience trying to stay alert amid the inviting plushness of the warm, dark room.

Baig is undoubtedly at his strongest when in dialogue with his on- and offstage wife, who, in turn, is extremely compelling as Bhagmati, a dancing village girl deemed to be the wrong religion, wrong cast, and wrong profession to ever be queen. Even Ms Baig’s coy, silent entrance provided a much needed injection of energy, and she continued to steal the show with her utterly convincing declarations of intense love for Quli. Though the Prince serves as a perfectly adequate narrator, it is through the brave Bhagmati and her determination to overcome all cultural barriers (not to mention the rival affections of the “blue-eyed and blue-blooded” daughters of noblemen) that we become invested in the lovers’ story.

Quli: Dilon ka Shahzaada is a charming piece of international theatre, and its Edinburgh debut serves as a charming introduction between two cities of pluralism, art and freedom. Although neither high-octane nor high-action, this slow-paced parcel of “visual poetry” provides the perfect antidote to Fringe fatigue.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Internationally acclaimed Indian heritage play (received standing ovations in India, Canada, France, Turkey, London, USA) about the 17th century Indian love legend of the poet prince Quli Qutub Shah and his beloved Bhagmati, a fateful love that overcame religious and cultural barriers and founded the cosmopolitan Indian city of Hyderabad.

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