The play is set in the late eighteenth century during the decline of the Moghul Empire when Shah Alam was emperor and India swarmed with a variety of European mercenary soldiers and adventurers who came to make their fortunes by taking part in the power-struggles that were going on. The play focuses first, on a military brigade led by a Swiss German soldier-of fortune named Col. Walter Reinhardt Sombre. It was one of the best-trained brigades and had a component of 273 Europeans, many of them deserters from the British and other European armies, along with 2,700 Indian soldiers.
They were a tough lot who demanded loyalty and wages — by the roughest means. Col. Sombre came to be known in India as Sumroo’ through a mispronunciation of his last name.
The play shows how an extremely capable Indian woman, with humble beginnings as an impoverished dancing-girl, took over the brigade from its smitten European commander, led it, made it the most efficient in India, never lost a battle, rescued an Emperor, was wooed by the English and French, had lovers uf many nationalities and, among her fans, she could eventually count men of the cloth including the Pope.
She also built a couple of palaces and churches that may be seen to this day. She was like an Indian equivalent of Joan of Arc but succeeded so admirably in all she did that she avoided being martyred and is therefore not remembered except by a few historians. In short, the play is about a European-officered brigade and an amazing Indian woman who was ahead of her time and ours.
Publisher: RUPA & CO