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Times of India
The Black PrinceStory :
Set in the 19th century (India’s pre-independence years), The Black Prince is the agonising true tale of Duleep Singh, the last Sikh king of Punjab, who was robbed off his mother, Kingdom, faith and lineage by the British. Raised as a Christian 'prince' in England by Queen Victoria (Amanda Root), Duleep's yearning to embrace his faith, reclaim his identity and trace his roots, forms the story. The fearless woman who fans and reignites the fire within him to discover who he really is and regain his lost kingdom, freedom and glory, happens to be his mother Rani Jindan (Shabana Azmi). But his struggle to be reunited to his motherland was endless.
The Black PrinceReview :
It must not be easy to live with the constant anxiety of not knowing your past too well. One takes great pride in stating the language they speak; the country they belong to or the faith they follow. Take that away and you have nothing that truly belongs to you. The protagonist (Satinder Sartaaj as Duleep Singh) battles a similar situation here. He was stolen from his mother when he was barely five and exiled from his own country. Raised as British, he soon realises that he is actually a prisoner, trapped by the lies and deceit of his enemy.
Kavi Raz’s film solely rests on Duleep’s longing and liberation. It’s his tragic story that’s heart-breaking more than the snail-paced execution, stoic portrayal by Sartaaj and ineffective writing. The film needed a competent actor in the lead role as the moment you take Shabana Azmi away, it ceases to hold your interest. As a feisty queen, who is appalled by her son’s indifference to his country, she proves for the umpteenth time, why she is one of our finest actors, ever. Amanda Root and Jason Flemyng do a fine job as well.
Given the period drama’s slow moving pace and melancholic nature, it could have perhaps worked better as a tele-series. An episodic retelling could have been more impactful.
Despite the story’s massive potential, Raz’s sincere but dimly-lit drama, monotonously shot within the four walls of a church or a heritage room, ends up being a tedious watch. Just like its protagonist, it lacks drive and a sense of purpose.
Take a reign check!
A biopic on the glorious life of Maharaj Duleep Singh, notedly the last king of the erstwhile Punjab, would naturally offer much fodder for cinema. After all, his family's history has a queen who was strangled while bathing, a king who was flattened under a giant gate and others who met with equally ominous ends. While The Black Prince attempts ticking most landmark events in the tragic life of the king who never got his throne — it does little else. Apart from being historically accurate, a biopic's possible job is to involve, engage and (hopefully) entertain viewers through the life being portrayed on screen. But this painfully slow dramatisation is little more than costume drama in its most amateur avatar and makes staying awake through the proceedings an ultimate challenge.
That the eponymous royal heir (Satinder Sartaaj) was forcibly removed from his state when he was only a child and adopted by an English couple settled in Britain, ensured that he was oblivious to his past. His limited access to his own life reduces him to a "sleeping lion"— how his guardian puts it. But when he travels to India to meets his ailing mother (Shabana Azmi), she enlightens him on the adversities faced by their family and how the country had been fraudulently occupied by the English. And despite his firm allegiance to her Majesty (it is she who called him by the film's title), the man is suddenly and decidedly politically awakened. He's informed about the surmounting support from his community back in India, who are awaiting his return and plan to overthrow the Brits. The rest of the film concerns itself with Singh's attempts of returning to his motherland, only in vain.
Punjabi singer and poet, Satinder Sartaaj is particularly unremarkable in his big screen debut. Stuttering with his lines which lack punch, Sartaaj even fails to summon the aristocratic manner that his character essentially demanded. Shabana Azmi's short yet memorable part has her mumble politically incorrect one-liners (when invited for tea by the Queen, she says that the cup seems familiar and that perhaps, her Majesty stole it from her). But her chest-beating monologues in attempting to inspire and instigate the royal heir becomes much to bear. Jason Flemyng as the overtly catholic Dr Login could pass for Dr Jekyll with his unnecessarily crafty demeanour, even in scenes when he's concerned for Singh and doles out advice that would ensure his well-being, he furnishes a nefarious gaze. Director Kavi Raz should be pinned for this big screen bore and for failing to render a terrific tale into a fitting tribute. Even with a runtime of barely two hours, the film seems like a lifetime of suffering.