By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “The Black Prince”; Director: Kavi Raz; Cast: Satinder Sartaaj, Shabana Azmi, Amanda Root, Jason Flemyng, Atul Sharma, Rup Magon, Sophie Stephen; Rating: **
Director Kavi Raz’s “The Black Prince’ is a trilingual film in English, Hindi and Punjabi. It is a sentimental tale of the ill-fated last King of Punjab, Maharaja Duleep Singh.
The biopic aims at putting history into perspective by showcasing the real reason for Duleep Singh’s exile and his struggle to reclaim what was rightfully his, including his attempts to reconnect with his past.
The narrative begins with a brief history of the Sikh empire established by Maharajah Ranjit Singh and the chaotic years that followed his death.
On September 15, 1843, after the assassination of four of his predecessors, Duleep at the age of 5 ascended the throne of Punjab. For a while, his mother Rani Jindan ruled as Regent. But in December 1846, after the first Anglo-Sikh War, she was replaced by a British Resident and imprisoned. Duleep was then sent to England and put in the care of Dr. John Login (Jason Flemyng), all part of Britain’s plan for complete control of the sub-continent.
In England, Duleep was baptised a Christian and kept away from his mother. Queen Victoria who was caring towards him used to affectionately address him as, “The Black Prince”.
After 14 years, when he was in his early 20s, haunted by the violence of his childhood, he insisten on going to India to meet his mother. The narrative then picks up momentum. She reminds him of his purpose in life, “to lead his people to freedom”.
Thence begins his discontent and strive to stake his claim.
Sartaaj, the popular Punjabi singer, makes his debut as an actor. As a performer, he is natural as the insipid character but not impressive. Shabana Azmi with her towering personality, as his mother Rani Jindan, is brilliant.
They are aptly supported by Amanda Root as Queen Victoria and Jason Flemyng as Dr. John Login.
Although the film is made with good intentions and is historical in nature, it lacks a universal appeal. The script is sluggish and painfully slow paced. The lack of volatile action fails to engage its viewers.
Mounted with moderate production values, Director Kavi Raz manages to recreate the era with precision with superb technical support. His frames are aesthetically mounted but befit small screen viewing as it fails to give cinematic pleasure.
Overall, the authenticity of this period drama is questionable, but nevertheless, it would appeal to people who are interested in history.
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