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Manikarnika (2019) Review | All hail the Queen!

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  • 7/10
    Critic's Rating - 7/10
7/10

The saga of the extraordinary life of warrior Manikarnika, later titled as ‘The Queen of Jhansi’, is something we’ve known and marveled at all these years. So, when it came to the screen translation of the legend, the first thing that this magnum opus got spot on was finding the Queen in the indeed reliable Kangana Ranaut. Though lacking the aesthetics and design of the master Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction, the movie still feels lively and refreshing under her raw direction and a strong screen presence.

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Redefining ferocity through her act, Kangana was on fire in her portrayal of the titular role, the Queen of Jhansi. Right from her intro sequence that feat. her aiming an arrow at a (substandard CGI) tiger, there remained no ambiguity to the fact that how the character is a superwoman. Since then itself, it was a treat watching her do full justice to her portrayal of a soul so fierce and brave. Blinking her eye not even once, she jumped off forts, got control over the stubborn horses, and managed taking upon the evils. Flabbergasted by her act in all the war scenes, the sequence of hers that particularly stood out for me was the one in which she, post killing all the Englishmen, gets captured (by the camera) in front of the Kali Temple, basking in all her glory of victory, with her sword held tight: Ah, what imagery!

Having her name credited also as the director of the movie (alongwith Krish Jagarlamudi), I’m all praise for her detailed storytelling skills too.

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Now, as the movie entirely revolves around the journey of Queen, the supporting cast here having Atul Kulkarni as Tatya Tope, Danny Danzongpa as Ghulam Ghouse Khan, Jisshu Sengupta as Gangadhar Rao; got little to do in their monotonous parts, and acted much the same way (with evident fake moustaches). The portrayal of British was caricaturish. Though not worse than the one in ‘Thugs of Hindustan’, but the dialogues of the whites were somehow poorly dubbed; as if no one cared for the same. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, for a change, who refrained from playing the hero’s best friend this time (actually, the movie here has no male hero!), acted passably as Sadashiv Rao. Making her big screen debut with this feature is the already television star, Ankita Lokhande playing Jhalkari Bai. She too suffered from the curse of ‘poor writing of supporting cast’ here, but got a fledged dance song (absurdly out of nowhere) and a brief fight scene (not memorable much) to her credit.

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Apart from the absurdly popped up dance number, the screenplay did roughly change gears, frequently in the first half. The proceedings really takes quite a time to settle, and then pace swiftly in full force to convey the prime point convincingly towards the end. Maybe, that too much was happening because there was too much to show in about her life so eventful yet short lasting; but clearly, the second half is anyday a better executed one, when our Queen takes the entire matter in her hands; giving away both subtle and loud takes on feminism and nationalism.

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Throughout, I found myself in total awe of the lyrics and dialogues work by Prasoon Joshi which aptly complements the story set centuries ago while simultaneously appealing to the audience of now, as it tries evoking the feeling of nationalism within the listener of the lines, both on and off screen. The soundtrack by Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy righteously suits the tone of the storytelling. I loved the use of song ‘Bharat’ at different junctures in the narrative, and ‘Vijayibhava’ song is a treat to eyes as the camera captures our Queen walking through the palace. As the story proceeds, the standards of CGI do drop noticeably to my disappointment, so the best CGI ( by this movie standards) work was unarguably in the ‘Manikarnika vs tiger’ scene.

Narrating an extraordinary tale right from birth (in 1828) to death (in 1858) of Rani Lakshmibai, this movie still felt slightly long at a runtime of around 150 minutes. Inducing goosebumps perpetually, this one chooses to prefer substance over style; making me applaud the Queen and her acts of valour throughout, in this portrayal led ably by Kangana Ranaut and the grandeur.

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About the author

Siddhartha Singh

Siddhartha is an avid reader and a cinephile who loves to write about movies. Being fascinated by the spell of cinema on and around us, he is always in for experiencing gripping stories from the lens of different storytellers.

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