Swords and Sceptres: The Rani of Jhansi held its New York private screening on Monday, May 6th, at the Asia Society. Notable guests who stepped out in support of the cast were Arturo Castro, Phylicia Rashad, Dana Ivey, Celia Weston, and more.
The historical epic adventure film, starring Devika Bhise and Jodhi May, transports audiences to alluring 1850s India. The heavy-handed British rule through the cruel actions of the East India Trading Company has ignited a rebellion among the people of India. Rani (Hindi for “queen”), the strong and enchanting leader of the Jhansi province, seeks to bring peace to her beloved homeland; but it quickly becomes clear that monetary gain is the only motivation for EITC. When they attack, waging war on innocents of her kingdom, Rani gathers her allies and lights a passion within her outnumbered troops to battle the firepower of the entire British army. She is willing to sacrifice all for her people, their land, and their freedom. A woman standing solid as stone against the whole of England becomes the symbol of the great Indian resistance. The Rani becomes an almost mystical embodiment of strength and determination for generations to come.
This harrowing tale was written by Devika Bhise and her mother, first-time director, and producer Swati Bhise. Creating this powerful story was a battle in its own. On the red carpet, Swati recounted the challenges, saying, “To make this film about a warrior, I too had to become a warrior.” For the first time, she spoke of how the film took a toll on her health, and she had to be airlifted off set during the last three days of filming. Her parting words to her daughter Devika were: “The show must go on.” Devika carried out her mother’s wish, directing the last few scenes herself and ensuring that the important story would be told.
Swords and Sceptres is a pure depiction of a strong ethnic/Asian woman without cultural stereotypes and gender bias. It is an inspiring true story of female empowerment and the overcoming of adversity. The film is set to be released to the public sometime this year.