Emmerdale's Paige Sandhu to play Sophia Duleep Singh in India-UK co-prod Lioness

The film has been certified as an official co-production by India’s National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and the British Film Institute (BFI)

By Priyanca Rajput 13 Jun 2023

Emmerdale's Paige Sandhu to play Sophia Duleep Singh in India-UK co-prod Lioness
Credit: paige_sandhu/Instagram

ITV's Emmerdale star Paige Sandhu is set to star in Lioness, a historical feature documenting the life of suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. 

The film is the first official India-UK co-production under a treaty signed in 2008.

According to Deadline, one story is based on a historical figure, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, the Princess of Punjab and Goddaughter of Queen Victoria, who was one of the key leaders of the suffragette movement in the UK. The second fictional storyline revolves around an educated, married immigrant woman, Mehak, living in Southall, a suburb of London, in the 1990s.  

Princess Sophia will be played by Indian origin UK actress Sandhu (Emmerdale). Mehak will be played by Aditi Rao Hydari, who also stars in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Prime Video series Jubilee

On June 12, Thetford welcomed cast and crew for research and development, as it is home to Ancient House Museum which boasts a dedicated exhibition.

The princess grew up at Elveden Hall, just over the border in Suffolk, before moving to Faraday House at Hampton Court (now in south-west London) in 1896 - a grace-and-favour apartment owned by the Queen.

Filming in scheduled for December 2023, with the aim to release it in time for the 2024 Cannes Film Festival.

Taking to Instagram on May 23, Sandhu announced the casting news and shared what the project means to her as a British-born Punjabi. 

Posting alongside a photo of herself foregrounding the Indian princess, she began the caption: "I am so incredibly humbled and honoured to be announcing #Lioness. To say this part, this story, this cast & crew is a dream come true would be doing it a disservice - I am so blown away by this incredible story and cannot wait for the world to learn about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. Granddaughter of the Lion of Punjab, youngest daughter of the deposed Maharajah Duleep Singh and goddaughter to Queen Victoria, her life, the people she helped and her work as a suffragette is truly amazing. And I am SO delighted to be working with the amazing @aditiraohydari and @kajribabbar Oh go on, I am going to say it! It is a dream come true!"

Sandhu concluded by quoting suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst's Freedom or Death speech: “So here am I. I come in the intervals of prison appearance: I come after having been four times imprisoned under the "Cat and Mouse Act", probably going back to be rearrested as soon as I set my foot on British soil. I come to ask you to help to win this fight. If we win it, this hardest of all fights, then, to be sure, in the future it is going to be made easier for women all over the world to win their fight when their time comes."

Lioness is directed by Kajri Babbar, and marks her feature debut following short films Khoj (2019) and Pardaa (2017). Producers include Vivek Rangachari, Vaishalli Paatil, Faraz Ahsan and Clare Cahill, with Ajit Pal Singh as executive producer.

Peter Bance, the historian whose research into Princess Sophia inspired the project, is also an executive producer on the film. 

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