British actor, Richard Keep has spoken about the switch to Bollywood with his debut film ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’, which has performed exceptionally well at the box office. The actor was seen playing the role of General Hugh Rose. During the mutiny of 1857, Rose commanded the Central Indian Jhansi in 1858. 

Audiences in India were quite impressed by your appearance as General Hugh Rose in ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’. How was your overall experience of working in a Bollywood production?
Greetings from London. I am truly grateful to see the positive reaction of the audience in India regarding the character. General Hugh Rose was a conflicted man whilst in India. Yes, he had orders to complete a mission, however I believe he felt very at home within India and all the wonders it had to offer. Let’s not forget he held the enigmatic, visionary Rani with great esteem, not to be underestimated under any circumstance and considered her the greatest threat to the East India Company.

I retain only fond memories of this adventure! Most grateful to be part of a historical Bollywood biopic of this magnitude, and importance for the people of India. Five trips to various shoot locations in India, over the course of 18 months, having made many new friends along the journey. I can only be thankful.

Portrayal of British characters in Indian historicals are often considered caricaturish. You, however, brought in genuine menace as the dangerous company officer looking to capture the queen. What was the research and preparation involved for the role?
I think it was clear from the outset that this wasn’t going to be the case for the character of Sir Hugh Rose, who in reality was an astute tactician in battle and a formidable commander in chief, who never lost a war previous to the battle of Jhansi.

With all that was at stake historically, this was very exciting to explore as an actor, to create a nuanced, multi-faceted individual.

Much research went into the character preparation, both from an intellectual and physical standpoint. Did you know Hugh Rose never had children, neither did he get married? He was clearly obsessed in dedication to his country, single-minded in his ambition.
In reality and as history depicts, Rani Lakshmibai got under General Hugh Rose’s skin and was just as, if not more cunning than him.

What was revealing to me, as the film’s plot thickened, was the internal and external battle that this man had faced. From this came the mutual respect admiration, and perhaps first slithers of vulnerability within the power of this character. With all that was at stake historically, this was very exciting to explore as an actor, to create a nuanced, multi-faceted individual.

Kangna Ranaut plays the role of Manikarnika in the film

Then there was the training with Action Director Nick Powell and his team in Hyderabad, over the course of several weeks where we got into the specifics of what was required for the action scenes as you see in the film.

This combination provided the physicality for the role, weight and gravitas required.

Would you like to continue your association with the Indian film industry and return for more future projects?
Absolutely! Let’s hope I don’t get type-cast though. How about an action thriller, or comedy? Film noir is a favourite genre of mine. Food for thought!

Tell us about your role in ‘Maleficent 2’?
Very excited to be on board with ‘Maleficent – The Sequel’. We started filming last in the summer of 2018 and have more to shoot this year before it’s impending release. For the rest, you’ll have to wait until it’s release. Alas, discretion is key.

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