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On king and country: bringing alive ‘The Black Prince’

British writer-actor-director Kavi Raz on bringing alive The Black Prince

In Victorian court artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s portrait, Maharaja Duleep Singh stands swathed in rich robes, a bejewelled turban and a sword in his hand — more romantic hero from the Orient, less king in exile.

But the painting, commissioned at Osborne by Queen Victoria, hid a darker truth — a history that led to the decimation of the Sikh empire consolidated by Duleep’s father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh; two Anglo-Sikh wars that lowered the pennants of the Sikh chiefs; the British takeover of Punjab, and the exile of the young Duleep. Separated from his mother Jindan Kaur, Duleep was as much a war trophy as the famed Koh-i-noor he was forced to gift the Queen.

He was raised by the Logins, a Scottish couple who instilled in him a love for the highlands and had the Sikh teenager christened. Duleep grew up in a milieu far from his native Punjab — a British gentleman who married a woman of German-Abyssinian descent, a sure shot with the rifle, a darling of the Queen and a politically-inclined prince, even as he was a pawn in the Great Game. But much of that changed for the ‘Black Prince of Perthshire’ when he met his mother. He tried hard to return to Lahore to win back his throne and convert to Sikhism. He finally died heart-broken in a hotel room in Paris — caught between two cultures and at home with none.

It is this daring journey of self-discovery, which inspired Sikhs to fight British imperialism until Independence, that Indian-born British writer-actor-director Kavi Raz brings to life in The Black Prince.

Starring acclaimed Sufi poet-singer Satinder Sartaaj as Duleep Singh, Shabana Azmi as the fiery Rani Jindan, Jason Flemyng as Dr Login and Amanda Root as Queen Victoria, the film launched its trailer at Cannes. Read full article here