The Black Prince: Expectations vs Reality

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Maharaja Duleep Singh was just a boy when his kingship and kingdom was ‘stolen’ away from him. His mother was exiled and he was adopted by an English couple, loyal to the crown. The boy grew up embracing Christian faith and loving the people who took away everything from him. This was the tragedy of the time. Those who raise you as your own hurt you the most.

The Black Prince: Expectations vs Reality

I had read mentions of Raja Ranjit Singh and his son Duleep Singh in William Dalrymple’s ‘Kohinoor’ (review pending). William Dalrymple traces the history of Kohinoor from the very beginning and the co-author Anita Anand talks about how it fell into the hands of the British. Or rather snatched by them. Both Dalrymple and Anand are eloquent speakers. So when they came to town to talk about the book I went to hear them.

Anita Anand spoke eloquently about the tragedies around the family of Raja Ranjit Singh or Sher-e-Punjab as he was called. Several princes died tragic deaths and the throne was left for a boy who could barely understand what was going around him. The Kohinoor was captured and made into a crown jewel, only after Duleep Singh’s reluctant gift to Queen Victoria.

Having heard and read just very little about the child King I was curious to watch the movie on the Black Prince. It is not much about the Kohinoor but the whole life of Duleep Singh has been portrayed in the movie. I was gravely disappointed.

The movie consists of a slow start which only gets worse towards the end. The monotony persists throughout. There is joy and no extreme sorrow. Shabana Azmi tried hard to portray Rani Jinda but somewhere only comes across as a Punjabi woman inciting her child. She does less to inspire him but only fills him with doubt and your head with extreme pain.

Sartaj Singh as Duleep Singh fails epically too. His subtle acting keeps going flat. In the beginning he just appears to have been mooted and later the dialogues are not powerful enough. A man for whom the Khalsa rises hardly makes any impression. There are no troughs and crests but a single line lying flat dying painfully.

The movie has mentions of Kohinoor but skips over it quickly. There are beautiful places to see and interesting setting which closely matches with the historical account. But other than that the movie is a disappointment. I still wait for a movie on Ranjit Singh or Duleep Singh which strikes as remarkable.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH