With The Black Prince being released over the weekend, we were quite excited to see a movie based on the life of Maharaja Duleep Singh on the big screen. An hour into the movie and the only thing we kept thinking about was what on earth made the makers choose Satinder Sartaj to portray the Maharaja. The singer turned actor was just not able to make the impact he should have.
The story is based on true events, dated as far back as 1843. With Duleep's predecessors having been assassinated, the little boy ascends the throne of Punjab at the tender age of 5. But with the first Anglo-Sikh war he is taken away from his mother Rani Jindan (Shabana Azmi), to England where he is taken care of by Dr Logan (Jason Flemyng), as part of the plan by the British to have complete hold of the subcontinent.
With Duleep converting to a Christian, he adapts the English way and has a good relationship with Queen Victoria (Amanda Root), who lovingly calls him "The Black Prince". Even though the British treat him quite well, as he grows older, there is this uneasiness that reminds him of the night he was taken away, which compels him to want to meet his mother in India.
Upon meeting his mother, Duleep discovers many things he never knew, and his life changes when he realizes he was being kept away from his Kingdom on purpose. His mother makes sure she tells him before she dies, so he has the chance to lead his people to freedom. Accompanying Duleep in every stage of his life is Arur Singh played brilliantly by Rup Magon, as he discovers his faith, his love for Punjab and most importantly his passion to free his people from the British. The British are obviously much smarter than him and with the Sikhs easily trusting everyone, the Maharaja never makes it to Punjab. The British make sure he is stopped every step of the way.
With such an interesting story, one honestly expected the film to be spectacular. Direction by Kavi Raz is good, scenes with the palace and between Queen Victoria and Duleep were shot beautifully, thanks to the impressive cinematography by Aaron C Smith. But due to a slow paced script, one loses interest mid way and does not really understand the purpose of making such a film. There's not much to take away from it.
The Black Prince shows three different dialects, namely English, Hindi and Punjabi. Hearing Shabana Azmi talk in Punjabi was definitely a treat. In fact, Azmi holds the movie together with her superb acting, one of the few good things about this movie.
Satinder Sartaj's personality is nothing like a Maharaja's and because of that we have a hard time connecting with him. His dialogue delivery lacked that passion needed for a person who wanted to free his people from the British. We actually couldn't help but wish Rup Maghon was casted as the The Black Prince because he has an authoritative personality and looked more royal then Sartaj!
Due to poor execution of the story, the movie failed did not win us over.