The annual Cannes Film Festival played host to the official unveiling of the eagerly awaited trailer of Brillstein Entertainment Partner’s (Academy Award winning film 12 Years A Slave) latest biopic The Black Prince. Media from around the globe descended upon the India Pavilion to catch a glimpse of the award winning movie, directed by Hollywood filmmaker Kavi Raz, as it prepares to take the big screen by storm when it releases worldwide on 21st July 2017.
Journalists and photographers sat in awe as the trailer powerfully encapsulated the enthralling tale of the Last King of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh and the constant battle he faced to regain his identity, faith and essentially the Kingdom taken from his grasp by the British.
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.
Unveiling the trailer was the multi-gifted sufi singer, composer and song-writer, Satinder Sartaaj, who makes his eagerly anticipated acting debut in and as The Black Prince. For his role, Satinder Sartaaj has already been awarded the ‘Best Newcomer’ Award at the London Independent Film Festival and the ‘Best Debut’ Award at the Accolade Global Film Competition held in San Diego, California. He was joined by one of the core team members of the production team Asa Singh Dhaliwal.
Satinder Sartaaj and Asa Sing Dhaliwal addressed the international media in attendance speaking about their experience and drive to bring the story of the life and legacy of the last King of Punjab to the silver screen. Expressing the passion behind the production, Asa Singh Dhaliwal said: “The story of The Black Prince was something which had to be told but was never told. Therefore we wanted to show the world at least now, about one of the forgotten giants from India who truly shaped the independence movement from outside of India”.
He also mentioned how the international release would be to supported by English, Hindi and Punjabi versions of the film, to help bring the story to millions of people across the world, regardless of ethnicity and locality.
In the music fraternity, Satinder Sartaaj has carved a niche for himself as one of the most captivating Sufi folk singers of our generation, enthralling audiences through his words and lyrics, and promises to do the same on the screen in his leading role as Maharajah Duleep Singh. When Natasha asked Satinder Sartaaj about how he made the transition from musician to actor, he said: “Music is a universal language and that is probably one of the main reasons why I have been accepted by audiences in ever corner of the world. It touches one’s soul when they listen to it. But for making this transition into acting, I was initially reluctant when the director approached me for the role. They wanted someone who understood and connected with the land of Punjab for the role, and since I was delivering that though my music, they felt I was the most suitable for the role…and our producer Jasjeet Singh who has conducted a lot of research in the film and written several books on the Maharajah’s life, mentioned I had a very uncanny resemblance and demeanour to Maharajah Duleep Singh.
So I took some acting classes to improve my expressions and dialogue delivery and everything in between. I hope I deliver to the audiences’ expectation sand support me as an actor as much as they have supported me as a musician.”
The Black Prince will feature four songs by Satinder Sartaaj to carry the story forward. Natasha requested he deliver an impromptu performance of one of his popular Punjabi Sufi songs which will be featured in the film – Darda’n Wala Des. While Satinder Sartaaj acknowledged that the non Asian press at the event might not be able to understood the meaning of the song, they would indeed feel the emotion, leading to an encore performance.
In the run up to the trailer launch, host Natasha Mudhar of Sterling Media, asked Satinder Sartaaj his views on the Kohinoor controversy and whether it was gifted or indeed stolen from the young Prince. Sartaaj commented, “Was it a gift or was it a theft is the question we all had. In the movie, there is a particular scene where The Black Prince looks at Queen Victoria with the kohinoor on her. She quickly fires back saying it is a gift repeatedly in a defensive manner. We left it at that and it is for the audience to judge.”
Satinder Sartaaj, who has also immersed himself in the life of the Maharajah, mentioned interesting anecdotes to the audience in attendance. In fact, The Black Prince and Queen Victoria often met in the shores of the south of France, quite close to Cannes. “To come to Cannes for the film festival is indeed special” said Mr Sartaaj.
Speaking about the trailer launch at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, Jasjeet Singh, Executive Producer of The Black Prince said, “We were honoured to have the opportunity to unveil our trailer at the most prestigious film festival in the world and introduce the untold story of Maharajah Duleep Singh to the international media. We are delighted with the response we are receiving from the audience and look forward to our release this July. Our journey would not have been complete without the support of our production team especially our director Kavi Raz, Vikrant Chopra, Natalia O’Connors, Linda Haysman, Jason Ash and Sandra O’Brian.”
Having been deprived of his throne by those closest to him, The Black Prince spotlights Queen Victoria’s cordial relationship with Maharajah Duleep Singh, as he begins adjusting and embracing the English culture he was drawn to at the age of 15. The film also sheds light into his upbringing as an aristocrat in the UK and his subsequent conversion to Christianity under the influence of his foster parents. The Prince’s world is turned upside-down when he begins to long for a return to his Kingdom, mother and roots. His character, as it evolves, is torn between two contrasting cultures – his royal ancestry from the Kingdom of Punjab as its last King, set against his upbringing in the UK as he embarks in a new journey of exile, away from his mother.
The Black Prince comprises an ensemble of leading stars. Satinder Sartaaj is joined by acting stalwarts including Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) as Dr. Login, the foster parent for the Maharajah, English stage, screen actress Amanda Root (The Iron Lady), who portrays the bold role of Queen Victoria; and veteran actress Shabana Azmi (City of Joy) as Rani Jindan, the exiled King’s mother. The film also features Keith Duffy, David Essex OBE, Canadian actor Rup Magon in supporting roles.
The Black Prince releases internationally in cinemas on 21st July 2017.