In the annals of Indian history, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, Punjab, is one royal name who would be remembered, among other things, for his opulent lifestyle; he was the first man in India to own an aircraft; had a fleet of 20 Rolls Royces at his disposal; wore a custom-made Cartier necklace encrusted with 2,930 diamonds, which today sits in a museum; built several prominent buildings in the state; traveled the world and donated the Ranji Trophy to the game of cricket. So why would one of his daughters spend her life as a commoner?
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh’s great-granddaughters Jyoti Singh and Gauri Singh shed light on their grandmother Rajmata Yadhuvansh Kumari’s struggles, detailing her journey from a princess to a commoner in their film, “Yadvi: The Dignified Princess.”
It’s a true story of enduring personal and financial hardships but never giving up on life.
While Gauri Singh wrote the film, Jyoti Singh brings her grandmother to life on the celluloid by playing Princess Yadvi, the daughter of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh and Maharani Bimal Kaur, who was married off at an early age but wasn’t sent to live with her husband until much later. When she does go, things don’t pan out so well, but rather than going back to her father’s house, she decides to manage her life by herself.
“It’s a story about struggles and what you face in your day-to-day life and how we should maintain our integrity, not give up,” Jyoti Singh, who has also produced and directed the film, told India-West. “It’s about why she doesn’t go back to her wealthy family when she has trouble even though she was raised in a very wealthy family. It’s about how she raises her kids by herself in the ‘50s to ‘60s when women didn’t have any rights in India or were able to operate without a man.”
Her grandmother, Jyoti said, was not only an embodiment of strength but also flooded everyone around her with unconditional love.
“Her idea of giving was so beautiful,” Jyoti said. “She wanted to educate everyone. She donated a lot to poor people. The depth of her knowledge was amazing, her personality, how she dressed was very unique. Her elegance and style was very different. When she walked into a room, people could tell that she wasn’t an ordinary being. There was a lot of respect for her. It’s just the way she carried herself.”
Another highlight of the film is “Maachis” actor Chandrachur Singh, who plays the Maharaja of Patiala. The cast includes Dina Rosenmeier, Siraj Huda, Vibhu Raghave, Aishwarya Raghave, Nikkitasha Marawaha, Rahul Godara, Resha Sabarwal, Bernadine Linus, Marianne Borgo, Gauri Singh, Kuvam Handa, and Yadvi Handa.
“Yadvi: The Dignified Princess,” which is in English, and has been screened at various film festivals across the country, has been warmly embraced by viewers. Some of the film festivals where the film has been honored in various categories include the North Carolina International South Asian Film Festival, Rishikesh Art & Film Festival, Rajasthan Intl. Film Festival, 4th Indian Cine Film Festival and Global Film Competition.
Jyoti, star of the 2011 Indo-American film, “9 Eleven,” said she decided to play Princess Yadvi’s character since, having spent 14 years of her childhood with her, nobody knew her better than she did.
The Indian American filmmaker explained that “Yadvi: The Dignified Princess,” set in India and New York, also touches upon the political upheavals at the time, especially when the princely states were being integrated into India, revealing an unseen side of the royalty.
“A lot of people want to tell a lot of stories, which need to be told,” Jyoti stated to India-West. “One of the audience members at one of the film festivals told me, ‘we did not know the other side of royalty. What we knew or heard is not what you see in the film.’ When people see royal families, they assume it must be a privileged life, they do not see the struggles of the renowned persons…they struggled in the same way as a normal person. How many people struggled in royalty feud?”
She added that the film showcases the time “India was changing, from the monarchy to the ministers coming in, the government taking over. This is also one of the reasons most of the royalties suffered, too.”
But the first-time director, who recently won the ‘Best Emerging Female Director’ award at the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival, also explained that despite the fact that she spent such a long time with her grandmother, not once did she see her let off steam in front of anybody. Along with the story of her struggles, Jyoti said, the story of her grandmother’s life, her grace, her dignified poise and her humility, needed to be told.
“Her integrity, her dignity struck me,” Jyoti told India-West. “She never complained. In today’s world, when we have any kind of problem, we complain so much. I, being raised by her, never knew her journey. She maintained her past quietly.”
The young filmmaker said her grandmother would “recall how her life was, how her father was, but she never complained about her husband or any other situation in her life.”
“Every day, she would do gardening with us, never acted like a royal person. She would make us do household chores, even when we had help. I never understood why. She always said, ‘You never know where your life takes you,’” she recalled.
Watch the trailer of “Yadvi: The Dignified Princess” here: