Begum Sumroo - a play by Partap SharmaBegum Sumroo (2004) is set in the late eighteenth century during the decline of the Moghul Empire. It traces the picaresque adventures of a legendary historical figure from British India. Farzana, (also known as Begum (Queen) Samru) is a peerless courtesan who morphs into a powerful ruler, known for her political accomplishments as well as her amorous liaisons.
The play focuses first, on a military brigade led by a Swiss German soldier-of-fortune, Colonel Walter Reinhardt Sombre. Sombre came to be known in India as 'Sumroo' through a mispronunciation of his last name. After seducing Sombre, Farzana acquires the kingdom of Sardhana from Emperor Shah Alam, and commands a fierce brigade of 3000 European and Indian soldiers.
It is said that tourists who visited British India were advised to see the Taj Mahal, and to pay their respects to the Begum! The story is of an amazing Indian woman who was ahead of her time and ours.
Begum Sumroo (play)This historical play was first staged in 1997 and 1998 by Alyque Padamsee. It played to packed houses and critical acclaim in several other cities including Theater Artaud, San Francisco, USA.
The treatment of the play is unusual in its construction. Partap wanted to ensure that it could be produced simply and effectively on a bare stage or elaborately, depending on the producer's resources. He built each scene around a single dominant prop that evokes the setting and location.
The play has been of interest to literary researchers and particularly those interested in women's studies. "Begum Sumroo: Literature and History versus Herstory" is the title of a learned paper delivered by Dr Nandita Roy at the Women's History Network Conference, University of Winchester, 2007. It is an academic comparison between the images of Begum Sumroo that emerge from the annals of history with that which is reflected by the pages of literature.
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Reviews:"The play fairly crackles with brilliance… authentically Indian and internationally excellent. This is a must-not-miss experience." - Mid-day, Mumbai.
"By any count a theatrical event…" - Busybee, Afternoon Dispatch & Courier.
"The resounding success of Begum Sumroo in Mumbai has been repeated in Delhi… Suddenly Begum Sumroo seems to have become an icon." - Hindustan Times.
"I would be happy to direct Begum Sumroo… here in New York, in England, in Bombay, or anywhere else for that matter. It is a wonderful play. I could not put it down because the story line grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. It's a thrilling story, of epic proportions and yet filled with the little human details that make the story easy to identify with and follow eagerly". - John Cappelletti.
"The dialogues are gripping and the scenes exude a raw power". - India Today.
"Begun Sumroo is a play portraying a remarkable woman… Begum Sumroo is not just a play but marks a milestone… " - Femina.
"The Begum rides again. Forgotten by history, Begum Sumroo vanished in to obscurity… Partap Sharma's play brings the 18th century ruler back into the limelight. Today, the Begum is hot property."- The Times of India.