THE BLACK PRINCE (English)

Brillstein Entertainment Partners and KR Films Hollywood’s The Black Prince (English; UA) is the story of a boy king who was stolen from his home and must discover himself years later in order to regain the kingdom of Punjab.

Following the death of his father, Duleep, the boy king of Punjab, was separated from his mother in mid-19th century and brought to Britain to live with the British elite, the very people who claimed his kingdom as their own. The boy king grows up in Britain and instead of following Sikhism, he is made to embrace Christianity. Duleep (Satinder Sartaaj) is looked after well by Queen Victoria (Amanda Root).

Years after separation and decades before India achieved independence, Duleep yearns to meet his mother (Shabana Azmi). He comes to India for that. Rather than leaving his mother in British-ruled India, Duleep takes her to Britain alongwith him.

Duleep’s mother hates the British, and keeps reminding Duleep to reclaim his kingdom. But Duleep fails to act. One day, Duleep’s mother passes away in the foreign country. She is cremated in India but not in Punjab, as she had desired. Although Duleep tried his level best to perform her last rites in their native place, the political climate did not permit him to do so.

Haunted by his mother’s advice, Duleep finally decides to go to India and lay claim on his kingdom. He enlists the support of Sikhs in different parts of the world. But as bad luck would have it, he is not allowed to reach India. The freedom struggle has gained so much momentum that Duleep travels to various countries to accomplish his mission with help from those countries. But the British government in India pours water on his plans by arresting and killing Sikhs who were part of the uprising plan. Meanwhile, Duleep gets married to a foreigner and, some years later, to another foreigner.

But his dream to get back his kingdom from the Britishers remains just that as he can’t reach India. Finally, he breathes his last in 1893 in a hotel in Paris, impoverished and lonely. Of course, although he failed, his struggle inspired Sikhs to continue the fight for freedom until India got independence from British imperialism in 1947.  Duleep Singh’s final wish was denied even in death as he was buried like a Christian in an English countryside.

Kavi Raz’s story is basically that of a man who did not meet with success. Since the Hindi film-going audience is used to watching films of achievers and heroes, the story of a loser will not go down well with them as there is nothing in it to inspire them. The entire drama is depressing and saddens the viewers. Kavi Raz has penned a screenplay which has neither patriotic fervour nor an inspirational quality about it. Dialogues are okay.

Satinder Sartaaj does an average job as Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab. Shabana Azmi leaves an impact in the role of Duleep’s mother, Rani Jindan. Jason Flemyng is good as Dr. Login. Amanda Root delivers a fine performance as Queen Victoria. Keith Duffy makes his presence felt as Patrick Casey. David Essex is alright as Colonel Hurbon. Others are adequate.

Kavi Raz’s direction is okay. He has made the film more like a docu-drama, missing out on the emotional turmoil of the characters. The film, therefore, becomes a drama devoid of emotions. There are no light moments too. George Kallis’ background music is passable. Aaron C. Smith’s camerawork leaves something to be desired because a lot of scenes are too dark. Natalie O’Connor’s production design is fair. Editing (by Heidi Scharfe and Marc Cohen) ought to have been much sharper. Dubbing is appropriate.

On the whole, The Black Prince has no commercial or entertainment value and, as such, it will fail to perform at the ticket windows. But it will be liked by those who enjoy watching historicals.

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