Film: The Black Prince
Cast: Jason Flemyng, Amanda Root, Shabana Azmi, Keith Duffy, David Essex OBE, Rup Magon
Director: Kavi Raz
The Black Prince hopes to be an important document of a history blurred by time and political compulsions. The narrative though, flounders in its efforts to cast the dispossessed 11-year-old Prince, (heir of one of the most illustrious rulers of Punjab, Maharaj Ranjit Singh, exiled to England at 15, with his kingdom annexed by the British in 1849), as a later-life revolutionary who sought to re-engage with his faith and province.
It’s more than a century since Maharajah Duleep Singh, the last monarch of undivided Punjab, who was forcibly separated from his family and dispossessed of the Kohinoor diamond, raised by Dr John Login (Jason Flemyng) under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria (Amanda Root) who was also Godmother to several of his children, converted to Christianity as a teen, passed away in near penury in Paris. These facts play out in unremitting fashion.
The drama of his riches-to-pauper life doesn’t come through. But his apparitional legacy lives on in this effort to circumnavigate the facts and paint a legacy of a devoted Sikh revolutionary who’s only supposed aim was to recover his stolen ‘beloved,’ Punjab.
Writer-Director Kavi Raz’s film is a forcible exhumation of a past that is not all glory and gumption- hoping to contrive a narrative that papers over warts with its segmented and eulogistic approach at biopic. The Prince’s black moods, and his late charge at acrimony with the British royalty, as portrayed by novice actor Satinder Sartaaj appears unconvincing and his identity crisis also does not come across as organic. Documented facts about the Prince’s lavish lifestyle and inability to convince the British Royalty to part with the agreed upon monies, don’t find a mention in this flatteringly skewed, fairly lavish effort to paint the portrait of a freedom fighter with a heart of gold. The voice-over narration also makes it un-involving. While the film looks aesthetically enlivened by its technical gloss, there’s little attachment or heart to hold you enraptured.