Lioness, the official Indo-UK co-production being made under the bilateral treaty signed by both countries in 2008, was announced today at the India Pavilion (managed by FICCI under the aegis of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. Written and to be directed by award-winning filmmaker Kajri Babbar, starring Aditi Rao Hydari and Paige Sandhu in leading roles, the film produced by Vivek Rangachari, Vaishalli Paatil, Faraz Ahsan, Clare Cahill and Ajit Pal Singh (Executive Producer) has been certified by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and the British Film Institute (BFI).
The film inspired by the research of Peter Bance, the historian who discovered the story of Princess Sophia Duleep, is the story of two British Punjabi women living in the UK, a century apart. Peter is also one of the executive producers on the film.
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh born in 1876 was the Princess of Punjab, the granddaughter of the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the Goddaughter of Queen Victoria. Sophia was one of the key leaders of the suffragette movement in the UK. She remained a tireless advocate for the rights of women and children till her last day.
While Sophia’s story is rooted in history, the second story is a fictional tale of Mehak Kaur an educated, married immigrant woman living in 1990’s Southall. Mehak uncovers a fascinating story of women’s emancipation and empathy in contemporary times. The two stories play out in different eras, highlighting grit, determination and compassion.
Harjinder Kang, UK’s Trade Commissioner for South Asia said, “It is fantastic to see the first official project under the India-UK Co-production treaty getting underway. There is huge potential for deeper collaboration between the creative industries of both our countries. I’m pleased that the very first project under this initiative is one that explores an aspect of the unique living bridge that connects our people.”
Princess Sophia will be played by Indian origin British actress Paige Sandhu, who has won many accolades for her performance in the ITV soap, Emmerdale.
Aditi Rao Hydari who will play Mehak says, “I was instantly drawn to the story that brings to the screen, the life and legacy of an extraordinary woman; a story lost in history. While Princess Sophia is a heroine in the true sense of the word, Mehak is an equally strong character whose journey parallels the Lioness’s in the present.”
“It’s an honour and a dream come true to be playing Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. I am very humbled to be portraying someone with a legacy such as hers, the work that she did, the lives she helped and the family she came from. I truly hope to do justice to her incredible story,” said Paige in a statement.
English Heritage will be unveiling a plaque at Hampton Court, UK, in memory of the Punjabi Suffragette Princess on May 26th. The London Blue Plaque scheme celebrates notable figures and the places they lived and worked in. The unveiling will be followed by a celebratory reception in the Palace hosted by Babbar Movies and the Anglo Punjab Heritage Foundation.
The event will be graced by members of the English Heritage, the British Parliament, representatives of the Indian and UK film industries, historians and authors. OBE Gurinder Chaddha, is the keynote speaker.
The film and the story of Princess Sophia are strongly supported by the governments of both countries. Mr. Prithul Kumar, Joint Secretary, Films, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, India added, “Heartiest congratulations to the co-production under India-UK treaty. The films being made under co-productions have been doing exceedingly well! All the best to this film!”