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film review

Jason Flemyng, Amanda Root and Satinder Sartaaj, centre, in The Black Prince.

About Duleep Singh (the exiled Maharaja of the Sikh Empire and the last King of Punjab), his British guardian worries about the awakening of the lion in the young man's heart: "The roar," he says, "must be unbearable."

It is – unbearable – as is Kavi Raz's dull grind of a biopic on the dude. In The Black Prince, the singer-poet Satinder Sartaj plays the titular would-be ruler, who we first meet as a regally housed but forlorn brandy-drinking, Bible-taught young dandy and favourite of Queen Victoria (portrayed excellently by Amanda Root). When asked if the Queen is attractive, the diplomatic Singh replies, "She's white." We were amused by the line, but that's it for the smiles in this lifeless, two-hour slog.

The bulk of the film concerns the patriotically awakened Singh's attempted return to Punjab and the British conspiracy working to prevent his homecoming to a kingdom they "stole." As a lushly shot history lesson, The Black Prince succeeds. As entertainment, the film is pedantic and over-dramatic, with the string section working overtime on the soundtrack. "I will not vanish without a fight," Singh vows. But he kind of does.