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Film about the last King of Punjab Duleep Singh, who once owned the Elveden Estate, to hit the big screens staring Satinder Sartaaj

PUBLISHED: 18:31 21 June 2017 | UPDATED: 19:53 21 June 2017

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian Burt

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

It is a poignant and extraordinary story of the life of a young man who became the last king of the Sikh empire who was laid to rest in Suffolk.

A still of a scene from The Black Prince featuring Amanda Root as Queen Victoria, Satinder Sartaaj as  Maharajah Duleep Singh or the Black Prince, and  Jason Flemyng as Doctor Login. Picture: Brillstein Entertainment PartnersA still of a scene from The Black Prince featuring Amanda Root as Queen Victoria, Satinder Sartaaj as Maharajah Duleep Singh or the Black Prince, and Jason Flemyng as Doctor Login. Picture: Brillstein Entertainment Partners

And now the tale of Duleep Singh - who once owned the Elveden Estate near Thetford and is buried there today - will be told to audiences around the world as the first English language film about the Maharajah hits the big screen.

A painting of Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Punjab. Picture: Archant LibraryA painting of Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Punjab. Picture: Archant Library

The Black Prince chronicles the life of Singh who was removed from the throne during the Anglo-Sikh war when the Punjab was annexed by the British.

He was exiled to Britain as a teenager, leaving his mother behind, and sparked up a friendship with Queen Victoria.

Well-known singer and poet Satinder Sartaaj marks his acting debut playing Singh.

The statue of last King of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh in Thetford. Picture: Rebecca MurphyThe statue of last King of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh in Thetford. Picture: Rebecca Murphy

The Indian Punjabi actor, who visited the grave of the Maharajah at St Andrew’s and St Patrick’s Church in Elveden, said it was hard to play the “iconic personality”.

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian BurtActor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian Burt

He said: “He was a big figure in that era and he was so near to Queen Victoria and he was Royal actually. He lived here and he owned that estate of 24,496 acres, so he was a big thing. So you have to portray that actual feel of Maharajah and the mannerism of Victorian aristocracy, the accent and the dialect.

Actor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian BurtActor Satinder Sartaaj laying flowers on the grave of Duleep Singh in the churchyard at Elveden Church. Picture: Ian Burt

“Everything about him is entirely lavish and very iconic.”

The film, which won Best Drama Feature at the LA Film Awards, also features Jason Flemyng as Doctor Login and Amanda Root as Queen Victoria.

It focuses on the warm relationship Singh had with the Queen as he begins to adjust and embrace the English culture.

It also deals with Singh’s torment at being torn between two cultures.

Mr Sartaaj said: “From my point of view after this film people will know an entirely different personality of Singh. He did a lot for his religion, for his country, for his language and for his culture.”

The film was shot in England and India but not at the Elveden Estate. However, the actor said he enjoys coming to the area.

“Personally I feel so much affection for this character and this area,” he said. “The ambiance of this area; the birds chirping and the greenery and the church and the architecture of their area – it is so fascinating.”

The film is released internationally on July 21. A screening has been held at Thetford’s Light Cinema.

For more on the story of Duleep Singh, don’t miss the July issue of Let’s Talk magazine.

Who was the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab?

Born in 1838, Duleep Singh was the youngest son of Ranjit Singh who ruled the region.

He came to the throne at the age of five.

In 1849 the Anglo-Sikh war was fought and the British annexed the Punjab. Singh was compelled to resign his sovereign and rights.

He was exiled to England in 1854 and it is believed he was pressured into converting to Christianity.

He was introduced to Queen Victoria and became a firm favourite of hers.

With a pension from the India Office, Singh bought the 17,000 acre Elveden Estate in 1863.

He later renounced Christianity, reconverted as a Sikh and tried to reclaim his kingdom - but was stopped en-route to India and sent back to Elveden.

He died from a stroke in Paris in 1893.

He was given a Christian burial at St Andrew and St Patrick’s Church in Elveden.

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