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Kangana & Manikarnika Are Flawed, But The Film Is Still Fabulous


Manikarnika The Queen  Of Jhansi: Movie Review

Starring Kangana Ranaut,  plus  stalwarts reduced to junior artistes

Directed  by Kangana Ranaut & Krish

Rating: ****(4 stars)

 There is plenty that  is openly wrong  with  this  beleaguered aspiring epic. Its rhythm  of storytelling feel all wrong. One minute we are looking at  Kangana Ranaut  playing herself—wide-eyed tightlipped defiant  stubborn and  sinister—the next minute she forgets herself and immerses  herself  in her character. Much like the  Queen-warrior herself who never could  decide whether she wanted  to be a wife  mother  warrior  or rebel and ended up being an amalgamation of all these roles.

But country  always came first. Oh yes, Rani Laxmibai was  a desh bhakt and she made  no bones about it. It is when Ranaut speaks about putting country  above all else  that  her eyes  light up.And so do the frames.I got  goosebumps when  Ranaut’s Rani ticks  off  the British  General

 The  film is never short  of visual luminosity. It as an  exquisite look most of the time, though many shots seem  overly enamoured  of Sanjay Leela  Bhansali’s gaudy grandeur. It is  hard to tell who is more impressed by the way Bhansali bedecks  his  frames, Ranaut orKrish. The co-directors  together  create a fairly impressive imitation  of Bhansali’s style without seeming slavishly devoted to the notion of  glitter.

The battle scenes that take  up plenty  of  the lengthy narrative are heavily influenced  by Bhansali’s  Bajirao Mastani. But  Ranaut manages  the  horse-riding and  sword-fencing  with impressive self-assuredness. I wouldn’t agree with Mr Manoj Kumar when he saysKangana was  born to play Rani Laxmibai. But she certainly gives  the  complex  character a  kind of  cutting edge that  makes the Rani  empowered  and  powerful.The supporting cast  is largely wasted.

Barring  Jishu Sengupta as the Rani’s  husband  who is shown to be somewhat  delicate. Is  he meant to be  gay?

More than the politics  of  invasion and  acquisition I like the  petticoat  politics  of  the  film, the  friendship between  Rani Laxmibai and the  uncommonly valorous commoner Jhalkaribai(Played with spirited  affection by Ankita  Lokhande) which culminates  in  the  two ladies  battling the  common enemy in the climactic  battle.

In fact  the  way  all the women of Jhansi come  out of their kitchens to  battle it out on the  preying field , is  one   of  the great charms  of this flawed but fabulous fable of femininefelineness, as  are  Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues which suggest  a kind  of deeprooted  empathy between history and  girl power.

 The  Britishers, as  per the  demands of all Colonial dramas  in  Indian cinema,  are portrayed as sadistic buffoons. One particularly distasteful sequence has  a nasty  British General hanging a young girl by a tree after he gets to know she  is named after his pet peeveLaxmi.Imagine the extent  of destruction  if the girl’s name  was Padmavati.

Manikarnika  could have easily avoided these violent  bouts, concentrated  more on creating a drama  of disambiguation that destroyed the Indian  kingdoms  during the British Raj. I am sure there  was  more to Rani Laxmibai than the expensive saree and jewelery, the mystery  and the  dancing eyes. But  what we see  is what get in this film.And that is quite  a lot.

All  said and done, Manikarnika  moves  us, though not in ways they should have.There is too much going on at any given time to focus on the heart and thoughts of a woman who  defeated  the Britishers with a child in her lap.Did the child ever wet the Rani’s   costly  silksarees? We would never know. The characters  of this film are  not prone to  human frailties.

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