Black Prince is well-intended bore (Review By Subhash K Jha ; Rating: 1.5/5 )
Something awfully aberrant, horribly wrong resides at the
heart of this nobly intended tale of a valorous Sikh prince exiled in Great
Britain and brought up as one of 'them' until his Punjabi roots beckons.
Imagine if Dev Patel in Lion was a Punjabi king in exile. Imagine if his Caucasian mother was played not by Nicole Kidman but a her totally stagey British avatar who speaks her lines as though she had sauntered out of a Shakespearean play into the life of a Sikh prince struck down by a Hamletian drama.
To flee or not to flee, that's the question for Dileep Singh as he must escape his adopted British heritage and reclaim his Punjabi past.
Imagine if the exiled prince's biological Indian mom was played by someone as formidable as Shabana Azmia. In fact the first 30 minutes of the narrative where Shabana appears as the ailing near-blind Queen Jindan are the only bearable chapters in this book in tedious motions.
If the truth be told, the ever-dependable Shabana Azmi is the only actor in this torpid tale of truncated bravery who is seen making any effort to bring the film out of the domain of stodgy staginess. She is dependably devious in playing the cunning Queen and she confers a deliciously ironic tinge to her scenes with the British royalty who stole her son.
Shabana's death half an hour into plot signals the end of all vivacity in the narrative. The rest of the actors behave as though they have just watched Game Of Thrones and are trying to assume the rites of royalty from the series without possessing the grace to pull it off. Come to think of it, The Black Prince quite often reads like a badly-constructed boudoir novella for a post-Colonial generation of British housewives at a tea party where literary readings are a vanity dutifully observed.
There is a disquieting solemnity to the proceedings punctuated by ham-fisted direction and acting. Writer director Kavi Raz knows his Punjabi history well enough. It's the inability to translate the book-information into a cinematic experience that eventually fells all the noble plans behind the endeavour.
Apart from Shabana, the performances are stilted and amateurish none more so than singer-turned-actor Satinder Sartaaj who plays the Sikh prince exiled in Britain with a distracting stoicism, as if he couldn't care less about Dileep Singh's fugitive kingdom and is just playing along till the final reel where the exiled royalty's stilted death sequence is staged with a hurried flourish of supplementary soppiness.
Weirdest of all is Sartaaj's accent. He is supposed to be a man who has been a part of British royalty from the age of 14. Yet his diction and accent suggest Ludhiana more than London. Cringeworthy mistakes in speech like 'cunningness' and 'wull being' destroy every shred of credibility in this nobly intended misfire.
On paper this is a rock-solid concept filled with anguish and drama. But the execution is so stagey, stiff and turgid you feel you are watching history being maimed mutilated and mocked.
The treatment of the tumultuous historical chunk is clunky. The editing is so haphazard as to reduce important events to footnotes whereas elsewhere an over-generous narrative space is provided to mundane conversations about royal obligations.
Ultimately The Black Prince is felled not so much by its ambitions as its failure to justify its existence. A lot of the research and a profusion of good intentions are not enough to fuel a drama that purports to reclaim a forgotten chapter of Indian history.
The Black Prince': Strong subject poorly executed (Movie Review By Troy Ribeiro ; 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.
The movie is about the fascinating true story of the last King of the mighty Kingdom of Punjab. The King, Maharaja Duleep Singh, was placed on the throne at the age of five only to be robbed of his throne by a bloody treason at the hands of trusted courtiers. He was then torn from his mother and taken to England by the British at age fifteen. While in England, he was introduced to Queen Victoria, who took an immediate liking to him, calling him "The Black Prince". He was indoctrinated into Christianity and baptized, changing his life forever.Meeting his mother again after thirteen years, the Maharaja awakens to the realities of his former life in Punjab. He then begins the arduous journey to regain all that was lost and re-embrace the faith of his birth, Sikhism. Torn between his two worlds, The Black Prince begins a lifelong struggle to regain his Kingdom. It takes him on an extraordinary journey across the world.