Biodata > 2003

Consultant to the theater play SAMMY! The Word That Broke An Empire

Sammy! The word that broke an empire


A play in two acts by Partap Sharma - Directed by Lillete Dubey - Primetime Theatre Company, Mumbai


From man to Mahatma

Sammy! is the incredible story of Mahatma Gandhi, told by an ensemble of actors in a modern and exciting manner. Led by a lively debate between Mohandas, the man, and the irrepressible Mahatma in him, the play highlights Gandhi's relationships and how he changed everyone he touched.


It traces the transformation of the young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from a naive, tongue-tied lawyer into a shrewd politician and finally a Mahatma and recounts his story from his earliest days in South Africa to his final assassination.


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an extraordinary man about whom Einstein once said Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one once walked upon the earth! The play aims to bring alive a man whose influence changed politics forever (and set in motion the journey of others like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King). With its dynamic style of presentation it hopes to straddle a large cross section of audiences, especially younger ones, who know him only from dusty textbooks!


The play is important not just as a powerful piece of theatre, but is specially relevant because of the times we live in, where the Mahatma's creed of non materialism and non violence is sorely needed in an age of terrorism and consumerism.


The title of the play is easily explained and becomes clear in the early part of the action. The word Sammy, along with the word coolie, was used as a derogatory term by the whites in South Africa to insult Indians and other coloured people. It originates from the word swami, which actually means master or guru. When he first hears an angry mob in Durban shouting the word as an insult to describe him, the young Mohan smiles and ventures the hope that he may, some day, be able to live up to it.


Sammy! is the result of several years of research on Mahatma Gandhi by Partap Sharma.


Lillete Dubey

An actress on stage as well as in film and television, Lillete Dubey is also producer and artistic director of her own theatre company The Primetime Theatre Co. She formed the company in 1991 with the intention of promoting original Indian writing and has directed 21 productions for it so far. Three of these have received the Sahitya Kola Parishad Award for Best Play of the Year. The company's productions have travelled widely in India and abroad. They have played at the Bloomsbury Theatre and at Waterman's in London, at the Tribeca in New York, at the Portland International Performance Festival, at the Actors Studio in Kuala Lampur, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Singapore, Colombo, Hong Kong, Dubai and most of the major cities on the United States.


She has performed varied roles in theatre and film, inclusing Zubeida, Monsoon Wedding, Gaddar, Baghban, Pinjar, Kal Ho Na Ho, Chalte Chalte. She is currently completing three films and is hosting her own weekly show on television.

She just won Best Director Award for Sammy! at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards Festival 2006 in New Delhi.


Partap Sharma

Partap Sharma is a playwright, novelist, actor, documentary film-maker, commentator and author of children's books. His books have been published in India, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada.


Among the ten full-length plays he has written are the acclaimed works A Touch of Brightness, Begum Sumroo and Zen Katha. Sammy! is his most recent play. As an actor Partap Sharma has played the lead roles in five feature films and won the National Award in 1971 for his performance in the Hindi film Phir Bhi. He also played the role of Nehru in the film Nehru: Jewel of India.

As a famous Indian commentator and narrator, he is known as the golden voice of India and was honoured in April 2004 with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.


With the success of leading companies like Primetime Theatre Co. which aim to promote works of Indian playwrights, Indian theatre in English has come of age and is a cultural force in contemporary India. Sammy! has played in cities, factories and companies all over the country in English and in Hindi.


Partap Sharma's plays, often based on historical and philosophical themes, bring a new clarity to core concepts in Indian thought and put them in a contemporary setting. Sammy! unfolds the depth and the strength of the ancient concept of nonviolence, the aim of which was to cleanse the body and mind of negative forces and attachments in order to achieve the core objective of knowledge, enlightenment and liberation (from re-birth). The play makes us unlearn and learn anew the meanings of words like truth, purity, sacrifice. And yet the context is one where Gandhi is looking for liberation for a whole nation.

Primetime Theatre Company took up the challenge of producing this fast moving and complex play which has played to great acclaim across India to a wide and varied audience.



Act 1  

Dada Abdulla Vikrant Chaturvedi 

Mohan Joy Sen Gupta 

Mahatma Ravi Dubey 

Aasvogel Denzil Smith 

Official Zafar Karachiwala

First Man Asif Ali Beg

Second Man Zafar Karachiwala

Mrs. Alexander Anuradha Menon

Kasturba Pravishi Das

Polak Asif Ali Beg

Medic Vikrant Chaturvedi

Smuts Zafar Karachiwala

ADC Asif Ali Beg


Act 2  

Sarojini Anuradha Menon

Shukla Vikrant Chaturvedi 

Jawahar Zafar Karachiwala 

Jinnah Vikrant Chaturvedi 

Viceroy Denzil Smith 

Clancy Asif Ali Beg

First Journalist Zafar Karachiwala

Second Journalist Anuradha Menon

Man Asif Ali Beg

Woman Anuradha Menon

Godse Vikrant Chaturvedi

Pahwa Asif Ali Beg



Assistant Director Ira Dubey

Lightning Designer Inaayat Ali Sami

Set Designer         Bhola Sharma 

Costume designers Trishna Popat, Aarti Khanna 

Original Music Score Mahesh Tinaikar


Duration: 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission.


The play had its premiere on July 30, 2005 at Tata Theatre NCPA, Mumbai.


This production has been made possible by the Aditya Birla Group and the support of Mrs. Rajashri Birla.