Based on the true story of the last King of Punjab, one of the most powerful and prosperous Kingdoms of the 19th century before it was annexed by Britain.
After having received an energetic response from enthusiastic film festival audiences around the world, the very first English-language film about the poignant life story of the last King of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh—also known as THE BLACK PRINCE—will be released in cinemas on July 21st, 2017 as it expands internationally.
THE BLACK PRINCE is a historical drama featuring an international cast, both written and directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Kavi Raz and filmed widely across the U.K. and India. The film captures the tragic yet fascinating true story and legacy of Maharajah Duleep Singh, providing a visual narrative of one of India’s noblest kings and his fragile relationship with Queen Victoria, who was godmother to his children.
In anticipation of its worldwide release, THE BLACK PRINCE has won several awards, including the award for Best Drama Feature at the L.A. Film Awards; the Special Jury Remi Award at the 50th Annual WorldFest International Film Festival in Houston, and the Best Male Debut Award for Satinder Sartaaj at the London Independent Film Festival.
Acclaimed singer-poet Satinder Sartaaj marks his acting debut in THE BLACK PRINCE, playing the role of Maharajah Duleep Singh with eloquence.
Satinder Sartaaj believes he was destined to play the role of Maharajah Duleep Singh in THE BLACK PRINCE. Although he had never acted before, the gifted musician and poet, a natural performer, felt drawn to the character and the film as soon as he heard about it.
Here’s a bit of what Satinder Sartaaj said in an interview about the film.
Q: What particularly interested you about this story?
A: “I was interested because my first love is history and architecture, and this was a history of my own culture so it was completely fascinating to me. I feel like an old soul! I am a poet, a composer, a singer and performer, and the story is so important to my community. In 2010, I went to England for the first time and someone gave me a history book about Maharajah Duleep Singh’s life from his point of view. So that was my first impression of who he was. I just started reading and learning about him at that time. You know, it feels like I was destined for this role. It is a very proud moment because it’s the first Hollywood film about Sikh history!”
Q: What were the challenges involved in taking on this role?
A: “The biggest challenge for me was that I was new to the film industry, and to film shoots. Sometimes we would shoot the scenes out of sequence. That kind of thing is easy for experienced actors but for me as a newcomer, it was very hard to fit into his skin at different ages. Sometimes in the morning he was 53 and in the evening he was 33, so I had to change my body language and my eyes accordingly. That was the toughest part for me, playing him from 15 right-up to his death.”
Q: I know you had great support from your director. Can you discuss your experience of working with Kavi Raz?
A: “It was great because Kavi is an experienced actor himself and has spent 35 years in Hollywood, which really helped. I learned a lot from him and he knew how to help me create the character. I could ask him about the mood, the timing, so many things. I listened to him 100 percent. Well, actually we argued once or twice (laughs)! I am louder than he is because I was brought up in India and Bollywood is a little louder than Hollywood. But he knew better than me, of course, and he taught me so well, in such a detailed way, so minutely, so beautifully. And he can speak Punjabi. He just told me, ‘Imagine if you were Duleep Singh, if you were actually there, if all this was happening to you, what would you do? What would you feel?’ So, that kind of direction helped me a lot, and I just tried to live the part as if I really were Duleep. And it was helpful to learn about British mannerisms and characteristics. Because Kavi was brought up in England, he knows all about that—the legacy, the protocol, the language and a lot about the Victorian aristocracy. Also, the script he wrote is incredible.”
Q: Can you talk about working with Shabana Azmi, the esteemed, multi-award winning actress who plays your mother?
A: “Shabana Azmi is a legendary actress from India, from Bollywood and she has a great legacy. When she signed on for the part, she asked, ‘Who is the lead?’ Then, she googled me and realized: ‘Okay, he’s a big, well-known guy in his community.’ She listened to my music. Some of my poetry is in Urdu, the Hindi language, Shabana’s language. When we were filming, we were staying in a hotel and met daily at the breakfast table, and I taught her Punjabi because her film dialogue is in Punjabi. Rani Jindan, the mother of the Black Prince, could not speak English so in the film, her entire dialogue is in Punjabi. It is authentic. I learned many things from Shabana. We became very friendly; she was so helpful to me.”
Q: So do you think this film will change the perception of Duleep Singh among the Sikh community?
A: “Yes I do. Many Sikhs believe he was a loser because it looked like he had turned his back on them and forgotten his religion. That wasn’t true, because he was a child when he was taken away from his mother and he had to convert to Christianity. This film will show the Sikh community and the world who he really was. The film was researched very carefully and we found that much of the truth was buried by the British at the time. Now people will view Maharajah Duleep Singh in a completely different light.”
Q: You are clearly a natural on screen. Would you like to do more acting?
A: “I would love to make more films, although the procedure of filmmaking is quite different for me as a stage performer. As musicians, we do a performance and people clap and it’s over and we move forward. But the filmmaking process is very long—it took four years of my life. But I love this kind of iconic, historic, role, and if there were an opportunity to do another one I would definitely do it.
Look out for the film coming to theatres on July 21, 2017.
You can also learn more about the film online