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Posted at: Jan 25, 2019, 4:03 PM; last updated: Jan 25, 2019, 7:46 PM (IST)MOVIE REVIEW: MANIKARNIKA: THE QUEEN OF JHANSI

Hail the queen

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Film: Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi

  • Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Atul Kulkarni, Jisshu Sengupta, Richard Keep, Suresh Oberoi, Danny Denzongpa and Ankita Lokhande
  • Director: Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut
Hail the queen

Nonika Singh

Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi…indeed who in India is not familiar with the glorious gaatha of Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi. That she fought valorously and became a symbol of resistance in what historians deem as India’s first war of Independence too is undisputed. Expectedly a film on her can only be a salute to her courage and sacrifice. Only when Kangana Ranaut wields the sword in the titular role and the baton (directorial), a new version, call it Bollywoodised if you wish, of Laxmi Bai has to be born.   

So, there she is in super-heroic form. Cut to scene one and Kangana with her duppatta flying like cape is out to take on the ferocious tiger. That she won’t miss her mark is all too obvious. Only guess what! 

She doesn’t kill the animal but lets him back to the deep jungle. That is Manikarnika for you—a brave woman with a heart full of kindness. 

Till the first half we are taken through her journey, her marriage to the Maharaja of Jhansi, her standing up for the rights of people of Jhansi and her stand-off with despotic East India officers. Predictably, the British are cruelty epitomised who beat up old men, hang little girls, none of which is probably untrue. Of course, how true our Hindi films remain to original facts is always open to debate and so shall this one be.

Here, probably the basics how she was the queen of Jhansi whose husband passed away, had a foster son, was hounded out of Jhansi only to launch a fresh battle from Gwalior are more or less accurate. Rest is fleshed up by Kangana’s beauty and her acting prowess. No doubt she fills her part with grace, femininity and just the right dash of veer ras. In a way she is both the film’s strength and its Achilles heel. 

Weakness, for the camera remains with her and her alone and she as befitting a queen towers over all else. Indeed, Jisshu Sengupta as the Maharaja Gangadhar Rao gets a meaty part and despite a jerky introduction is depicted as a sensitive and sensible man.

Danny Dengzopa gets a fair share too. As for the much hyped debut of Ankita Lokhande as the royal faithful Jhalkari Bai, she sure is noticeable. But make no mistake all these are mere appendages, meant to buttress our super-heroine and stand in stupefied awe and wonder of the parakarmi Rani. For most part Kangana carries the film on her slender shoulders. Whether its action or emotion she comes out trumps and mouths one-liners with conviction. 

Powered by the pen of Prasoon Joshi, dialogues like jab ladki khadi hoti hai vijay tabhi badi hoti hai are bombastic yet don’t ring false either. And what’s more, there is more of such gender correctness in the period film.

What is creditable is that even though subtlety is not a virtue, amidst the dramatic flourishes and the broad brush strokes with which other significant players of the period are treated, both the director and the actor in Kangana manage to whip up just the right emotions and patriotic fervour.

So, if this Republic Day you are suffused with feelings of nationalism and feeling a bit nostalgic about our great past, no harm in checking out this salute to the queen, both real and reel. Only as this gentleman in the movie enquired, don’t ask ‘are these historical facts?’ In a Bollywood film replete with song and dance (yes, Karni Sena this queen certainly does dance in one sequence though), who cares about

such trivialities/niceties. Rather as this song in the film reminds us what matters is; Desh se hai pyar toh, har pal yeh kehna chaaeye, mein rahoon ya na rahoon, Bharat yeh rehna chaaeye. Our advice; take this dose of nationalism with a pinch of salt.

nonikasingh@ tribunemail.com

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