But as the Indian celebrity learns about the life of the Maharaja Duleep Singh – whom he will play in an upcoming film – he can’t help but feel humbled.
“This is a great feeling for me, to see the last Maharaja of our land, who came to this empire and owned a 30,000-acre estate, welcoming royalty.He had so much, and was born into the most powerful family – and yet he died alone, in a hotel in Paris,” he said.
Mr Sartaaj visited the Elveden Estate and the Ancient House Museum in Thetford yesterday as part of his research for filming the Maharaja’s riches to rags story. Maharaja Duleep Singh bought the Elveden Estate in 1863 and lived the life of a country gentleman with a taste for the finer things in life.Born in 1838, he was the youngest son of Ranjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, who ruled the region.But in 1843, five-year-old Duleep Singh found himself as sovereign and a hindrance to the British Raj.
Two wars were fought against the British, resulting in Duleep Singh being separated from his mother and removed from power by the underhand means of the East India Company. He was effectively exiled to Britain where he eventually settled in Elveden and became a Suffolk gent.His son, Prince Frederick, bought Blo Norton Hall, where he lived for the last 20 years of his life, laying out the grounds and building a temple in the woods.
It will be the singer and poet’s first film role, with filming due to begin in September for release next year.
The producers say they are eager to shoot as much on location as possible. That includes hunting scenes due to take place at the Maharaja’s old stamping ground on the Elveden Estate, now owned by Lord Iveagh.Mr Sartaaj said that despite the tragedy of the Duleep Singh story, it did not have the fame it deserved.
“This is the reason we have to make this film. The history of the Maharaja, and his father’s history, is not known by anybody.Some of us are a little more educated about his story and it is important we share it with as many people as possible,” he said.
Mr Sartaaj was returning to the museum for the second time with Peter Bance, Sikh historian and writer.
Mr Bance said it was essential that the Maharaja’s story was told. “For children, not just in Norfolk and Suffolk, but all over the world, to know who this tragic prince was and how he came to die, is such an important lesson,” he said.
Oliver Bone, curator for the Ancient House Museum, said Sikh interest in Thetford had grown due to its links to the Maharaja.“It’s an amazing connection we have in a local museum to an international story.
“Ever since I have worked here there’s been a growing interest in the Maharaja’s story. Let’s hope the film will encourage people to come here and find out more about his life,” he said.
http://www.edp24.co.uk/ April 25th 2014