The actor discusses General Hugh Rose’s interminable torment, and shares his experience of shooting his first Indian film, learning Hindi, and exploring India in this exclusive interview.
Richard Keep, the British actor who played Sir Hugh Rose — the man who during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 commanded the Central Indian Field Force and defeated the Indian rebels at Jhansi in 1858 — in recently released Bollywood flick Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, says that shooting this film taught him ‘patience is a virtue’.
The 44-year-old actor who made his Bollywood debut with the Kangana Ranaut-starrer has appeared in a short film titled Citizen Hero (2009) and a Hollywood film Arthur’s Choice (2017) earlier. He had also acted in the 2010 TV series Nouvelle Maud.
His reaction when he first got the offer for Manikarnika, Richard says, was “One of astonishment! How Krish and Kamal (Jain) found me was a minor miracle. Remember to trust the universe!”
About preparing for the role of Sir Hugh Rose, he says that he started off with a lot of research at the British Library in London. “There is a plethora of information out there on Sir Hugh Rose. In the film, he was at the peak of his career, after successful operations in Crimea and Syria. Highly decorated, never lost a war. Intrinsically, a very complex individual. A detail in his personal life, that he has never been married or had children led me to explore the single minded ambitious individual, most certainly a narcissist too.”
“Then there was the sword fight and horse riding training with action director Nick Powell and his masterful team of stunt masters where we got into the specifics of what was required for all the action scenes you see in the film. Fond memories! There are some reveals of this training on my Instagram page posted recently,” adds the actor who dwells in hobbies like travelling, boxing, downhill skiing, cricket, golf and tennis, mountain-biking, pilates, yoga, horse-riding, and sword-fighting.
Talking about his experience shooting for an Indian film for the first time, an elated Richard says, “Lots of challenges, but nothing I wasn’t ready for. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable adventure travelling five times to India from London in various magical locations, a highlight being Mehrangarh Fort and Alsisar in Rajasthan.”
Keep enjoyed his visits to India very vividly. Sharing some fun moments from between shoots he spent time taking portraits with his camera in downtime of locals in the area filming. “Portrait photography is a passion of mine. There was a particular ride in a tuktuk in Bikaner with fellow actors Vaibhav Tatwawaadi and Rajeev Kachroo which resulted in much hilarity. Comedy moments learning Hindi. Some hair raising moments when training on the horse! Many new friendships made over the course of each schedule,” recalled the actor.
In an older interview he had said that Manikarnika‘s director Krish (Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi) had given him a very clear brief about Sir Hugh Rose. Later, when Kangana took over the direction of the film how did things change? Keep clarifies, “The direction for character remained the same, to keep the level of intensity, resolute with one objective in mind but also exploring the torment that Laxmibai was causing this man.”
Sir Hugh Rose had chronicled Rani Laxmibai as the most dangerous of all Indian leaders. The films shows that his character somewhat adored Rani Laxmibai despite being the enemy. Talking about his thoughts of the Queen’s character, Richard says, “General Hugh Rose certainly held Rani Laxmibai with high esteem, not to be ignored at any cost. In reality, and as history depicts, she really got under the General’s skin and was just as, if not more, cunning than him. So what was fascinating to explore as an actor, as the film’s plot developed, was the internal conflict Hugh Rose faced.”
“From this came the mutual respect and admiration for the Queen, exposing for the first time this man’s vulnerability, in light of her mysterious ways and strength. Indeed, post Battle of Jhansi it seems General Hugh Rose suffered interminable torment and demise both professionally and personally! With all that was at stake, this was very exciting to explore as an actor, to create a nuanced, multi-faceted and somewhat flawed individual exposed only by Laxmibai,” adds Richard.
When asked which actor/actress he had most fun with, during the shoot, Keep says very generously, “Everyone! It would be unfair to single out one particular actress or actor. It was a long shoot journey with many new dear friends made along the way. Top of the scale laugh out loud moments on a consistent basis were had,” says Keep.
Richard Keep will next be seen in Maleficent 2. When asked about his character in the film he said, “All will be revealed upon the film’s release. We started filming in Summer of 2018 and have more shooting schedules in the Spring. At this time, I can’t really reveal anything about my character. Patience is a virtue, shooting Manikarnika taught me that.”