BEYOND THE ROYAL VEIL (2002) [Feature]

Australia (MIFF 2002 , Australian Showcase)

Only two generations ago, India was divided into hundteds of feudal kingdoms ruled by princes. Even under British rule they had the power of life and death over their subjects. Upon India's independence, however, their lives changed dramatically. Beyond the Royal Veil takes us into the lives of two Indian princes who, faced with the immense financial cost of maintaining their ancient palaces, are fighting valiantly (and creatively) to save these vestiges of India's royal history. Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur and Digvijay Sinh of Wankaner's solution is to open their palaces to tourists. But can they save their inheritance without sacrificing their dignity?

As well as taking us through previously inaccessible sections of these extraordinary palaces, this remarkable documentary gives us almost unimpeded access to the private lives of two men who have seen their world turned upside-down, and must now face the financial realities of the modern world. Management consultants, package tours and male model competitions make for scenes reminiscent of Fawlty Towers, as these princes march, as Shriji expounds at one point, from "feudalism to corporatism".

Catherine Marciniak has been making documentaries since 1987. Her credits include Heroes of Our Time, At the End of the Day, Barefoot Student Army, Hospital: An Unhealthy Business, The Gamblers: Hooked, The Crusader, Grey Voyagers: Born to Ride and Steel City.

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