- Critic's Rating - 7/107/10
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.
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, and 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’, the dialogues of the whites here still were poorly dubbed; as if no one cared for the same. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, for a change, refrained from playing the hero’s best friend this time (actually, the movie here has no male hero!), and 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 an unmemorable brief fight scene to her credit.
Apart from the absurdly popped up dance number, the screenplay does roughly change gears, frequently in the first half. The proceedings really take quite a time to settle, and then pace swiftly in full force during second half, to successfully convey the prime point convincingly towards the end. Maybe, that too much was happening because there is too much to show about her life so eventful yet short lasting. 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.
Throughout, I found myself in total awe of the lyrics and dialogue work by Prasoon Joshi which aptly complements the story set centuries ago while simultaneously appealing to the audience of now, as it efficiently evokes 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 proceeded, the standards of CGI did drop noticeably to my disappointment, so the best CGI (by this movie standards) work is unarguably 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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