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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Bengal jail inmates all set to stage English drama

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, April 12, 2012
First Published: 19:43 IST(12/4/2012) | Last Updated: 19:44 IST(12/4/2012)

The convicts of Bengal jails are all set to give Bollywood and the likes of Rani Mukherjee a run for their money. The inmates are preparing an English drama ‘Begum Samru’ which is to be staged in two months.

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While Rani Mukherjee has been picked for the role of Begum Samru in Tigmangshu Dhulia’s (Paan Singh Tomar director) next project, Aditi Kanjilal who is a lifer for murder is playing the role of the protagonist in the drama.

“The idea came from former IG jail, BD Sharma and I started the workshop of training them in November last year. Now we are engaged in full-fledged rehearsals, twice weekly in Alipur women’s jail. By the next two months we will be ready for stage,” said Rohit Pombra director of the play.

Pombra 1986 founded Stagecraft, one of Kolkata’s premier English language amateur theatre groups, which has presented 46 productions in 25 years.

The cast for the play includes inmates convicted for crimes such as murder and drug peddling. The lead role of Begum Samru or Farzana is being played by Aditi who is a life convict in murder. Other roles such as Walter Reinhardt Sombre a foreign mercenary who fought against the British is played by another murder convict Kunal Majumder.

“We have read in the media that Rani Mukherjee is being roped in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film Begum Samru. All inmates are working hard so that they stage the show before the film release. We intend to call the director and actress when we first stage the show,” added Pombra. 

“Initially the director had trouble in locating the right persons for an English drama. But now things have fallen in place after talented persons were spotted in the jails. The actors are serving as role models for other inmates,” said Ranvir Kumar, inspector general, jails.

Shah Alam the Mughal emperor is played by Sarvan Karel serving 10 years imprisonment for murder where as Kamlesh Sharma serving 10 years is playing the role of Enayatullah Khan military officer. Farukh Ehsaan convict is fake currency case is playing Father Gregorio.

The inmates gather twice a week in Alipore women’s jail and take part in over two hours of rehearsals.  Even when they are back in their wards and cells at Alipore central jail and Alipore women’s jail the inmates practice hard and even till late night.

The drama revolves around the life of historical character Samru, who started her career as a Nautch girl in 18th century, and eventually became the ruler of Sardhana, a principality near Meerut. She was the head of a professionally trained mercenary army, inherited from her European mercenary husband, Walter Reinhardt Sombre. She is also regarded as the only Catholic ruler in India.

As the inmates engage in rehearsals, the costumes and props are being designed by Perin Pombra, but are being tailored by inmates inside the jail.

“Initially there was difficulty in training them in eloquent English. But now they are doing great and their performance in no less professional. We are working with nearly 20 speaking and no speaking actors, including three women convict and till date we only had one drop out. They have tremendous enthusiasm,” added Pombra.    

Earlier ‘Valmiki Pratibha’ a Bengali play by Tagore was staged in front of both former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and later in front of Mamata Banerjee.


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