Vancouver Sun – Film backed by Surrey businessman reveals truths about Sikh royal history

In 1843, five-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh sat on the throne of the Sikh kingdom

Dana Gee

Vancouver, 18 July 2017. The Punjabi boy had ascended due to the death of his father, the Lion of Punjab, a.k.a. Ranjit Singh.

The boy ruled (sort of, he was five after all) for five years until war broke out and Britain got involved. The result was in that in 1849 Punjab was annexed to British India, and the boy was removed from the throne thus becoming the last ruler of the Sikh kingdom.

Duleep Singh’s mother (who was pretty much in charge) was imprisoned and Duleep Singh ended up in the guardianship of a British army surgeon and his wife. From tea and crumpets to Christianity, the couple taught him the way of the English.

In 1854, Duleep Singh and the doctor’s family went to England, and Duleep Singh met and charmed Queen Victoria. He was such a hit he became a kind of brother from another mother in the royal household: everybody wanted to hang with him, and he even went on holiday with the Queen and Prince Albert.

If you stopped the tale there you would still have a really good story, but an incomplete one.

A new film The Black Prince picks up the ball and completes the play, delivering the full story of Duleep Singh.

In the Kavi Raz written and directed movie, Duleep Singh’s story continues with the adopted Brit reuniting with his mother, and in turn reigniting his Sikhism. Soon he begins to question his own story and wants to connect with his roots. He makes financial demands, and faster than you can say ‘I’m not amused,’ he went from prince to pariah.

Duleep Singh’s plan was to return to the old country and set up royal shop again, but the English didn’t want trouble in the colonies and stopped him en route, putting him under house arrest. He eventually went to Paris, where he died penniless.

And to add a bit more meat to the story there is the question of the ownership of a big diamond called the Koh-i-noor (Mountain of Light).

“Everything is in there,” said Raz about Duleep Singh’s story. “Like I say, it is a Shakespearean tragedy that was just waiting to be told. There is just so much going on.”

The story is packed, but it has been parsed over the years leaving many Sikhs with that incomplete tale of a boy abandoning his homeland in favour of British finery and fancy parties.

“The general perception in the Sikh community was he betrayed the Sikh nation, he became a Christian of his own will, and he never looked back. What we try and portray in the film is ‘no, no that’s not true,’ ” said Raz during a phone interview from Toronto recently.

“I think a lot of Sikhs will be surprised when watching this film. I think it will correct a lot of the wrong notions that are out there. Maybe even start a debate, which is always a good thing.”

Executive producer Jasjeet Singh, who began researching the story back in 2011, says the story was given a British spin.

“People in Punjab didn’t know much,” said Singh who calls Freemont, California home.

“Most of the news that came to them was from the British, who said he was ‘a spoiled kid now. He doesn’t care about Punjab.’ The people were like, ‘OK he’s gone.’ The Indian historians were using the same historical documents that the British established.

“It’s a new story for everybody.”


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