Brillstein Entertainment Partners executive Jai Khanna will co-produce The Black Prince, described as the tragic yet fascinating story about the last king of the state of Punjab (in north India), Maharaja Duleep Singh. Written and to be directed by L.A.-based Indian filmmaker Kavi Raz, The Black Prince will feature the acting debut of one of Punjab’s most acclaimed singer-poets, Satinder Sartaaj.
The bilingual English-Hindi project is budgeted at about $5 million and is out to potential producing partners in India. Set in India and the U.K., The Black Prince is eyeing a late September start date. Brillstein will help shepherd the various international cast, crew and production logistics, as well as begin to secure international sales.
The film follows the story of the last Sikh Maharaja — the son of the powerful ruler Ranjit Singh — who was placed on the throne at the age of 5, after the death of his father. In 1849, Punjab was annexed to British India. The young prince was removed from the throne and eventually sent off to England. His attempts to return to India and reclaim his kingdom were thwarted by the British. He ended up a pauper, dying alone in a Paris hotel in 1893. Sartaaj — who will play the lead role in the film — has been a big star in India for over a decade, giving traditional Sufi and Punjabi music a contemporary twist and selling out concerts worldwide.
“Besides his patrician resemblance to the young Maharaja Duleep Singh, Sartaaj’s artistic instincts are highly intelligent and creative,” Raz said.
“Having read a number of screenplays during the past few years, I found a deep and profound connection with this story,” added Sartaaj. “It’s an emotional journey of identity, dignity and legacy. In the trusted hands of this experienced production team, the decision to come on board was simple.”
Raz recently directed 9/11 drama The Gold Bracelet. As an actor whose career dates back to the ’70s, Raz was the first South Asian actor on St. Elsewhere. He also had guest appearances in shows such as The A-Team, M*A*S*H and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As previously reported by The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive last November, Brillstein has partnered with top Bollywood star Ajay Devgn to form L.A.-based development and financing outfit Shivalaya Entertainment. Directed by Leena Yadav, the venture’s maiden project, Parched — revolving around the challenges faced by women in rural India — is currently in postproduction in L.A.. Khanna is also on preproduction on director Rohit Batra’s The Field, which will star Ray Liotta. The New Delhi-set crime drama will begin shooting this fall. Khanna is also out to directors with a World War 2 action thriller Crashland, penned by BEP client Himkar Tak.