After a series of trials and tribulations, the magnum-opus Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi has released.
The film captures the life of the 22-year-old Queen of Jhansi (Kangana Ranaut) who refused to cede Jhansi to the British Empire.
She was the first woman in the history of India to fight against the British in the cry of Independence.
Despite fighting a fierce battle (known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857), she was killed in the combat.
This led her life story and fight against the British to be a formidable tale of bravery, valour and women’s strength to inspire generations to come.
Besides the film being a big-budgeted period drama, Jhansi Ki Rani’s narrative is far from being a mere chapter of history.
In fact, there is a lot more relevance to the world we live in today.
We explore more in our review
Manikarnika: It’s not just history
Rani Laxmibai is depicted to be the queen of the people. We see her mixing with the subjects and a brave individual who stands up to the British.
It is so refreshing to see a strong, independent woman not adhering to the customs or boundaries of society and men.
Unlike former representations of the valiant queen, this time we see Manikarnika speaking English as a befitting response to the bigots.
However, the biggest example of woman power is Rani Laxmi Bai training other women of Jhansi in sword-fighting and other methods of defence/attack.
This fearless attitude is something which reflects today’s day and age, given that there is a new wave of feminism.
Rani Laxmi Bai fought for a free India and honour. Today, women are also fighting for their honour and against oppression.
Manikarnika is a reminder of what women empowerment really means. Whilst the Rani’s sacrifice is well documented in history, her courageous spirit remains immortal.
A fresh, simple & succinct presentation
It makes one proud to see valiant stories of heroes like Manikarnika’s being exhibited on the big screen.
This, like Padmaavat, is another prime example of India’s tortured past and how foreigners always oppressed the people in their own country.
As a film, it smartly avoids falling into becoming a mere biopic on Manikarnika.
There is close attention to the Queen’s battle in retaining her kingdom and subsequently the fight for an independent nation.
Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues evoke patriotism and one cannot help but say ‘wah’ whilst watching the film.
Speaking of patriotism, directors Kangana and Krish perfectly balance the film.
Whilst there is grandeur, there is no time-wasting in showcasing the lavishness of the palaces, costumes or jewellery.
The simple and succinct approach works very well and makes the narrative focused.
A special mention here also goes to Sanchit and Ankit Balhara for a phenomenal background score, as this completely uplifts the film’s atmosphere.
Kangana Ranaut’s best performance yet
Kangana Ranaut came in a film named Queen. After seeing this film, she has rightfully earnt that title.
Not only does she play the role, but she also owns it by bringing the character to life.
Kangana has captured every nuance of a queen and warrior with par excellence.
Whether it’s the facial expressions, body language or dialogue delivery, Kangana aces it in every aspect.
Undoubtedly, this ranks as her best performance yet and her directorial debut is impressive.
Dear Kangana Ranaut, you are a superstar!
Whilst Kangana totally shines, the supporting cast is equally formidable.
Jisshu Sengupta as Manikarnika’s husband king Gangadhar Rao is a delight to watch.
He fits into the role with such ease.
Danny Denzongpa is powerful Ghulam Gaus Khan and lets his presence strongly felt.
Atul Kulkarni as Tantia Tope is equally effective. Though seen briefly, his leaves a mark.
The debutant actor who really impresses us is Ankita Lokhande.
Lokhande essays Jhalkaribai, a key figure in the Indian rebellion of 1857.
Her screen presence is formidable and has it all to be a successful Bollywood actress.
It is great to see two strong actors like Ankita and Kangana involved in a project which oozes of woman power!
What could’ve been better?
Without the shadow of a doubt, there are several positives to this period drama.
However, one cannot deny that there are also a few flaws.
Firstly, the VFX seems quite rough. It becomes apparent that a green screen has been used in a few sequences.
Perhaps some polishing on the special effects would’ve made the visual appeal more convincing and authentic.
Secondly, the typical representation of British officers at times is unintentionally laughable… Especially due to their acting. A better choice of actors could have been better.
Thirdly, three hours is quite a long duration. Whilst one doesn’t feel bored, the film could’ve easily been made within 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Generally, the positives outweigh the negative factors.
On the whole, Manikarnika offers a fresh approach in narrating Jhansi Ki Rani’s story.
It is not grandeur for the sake of it, nor does it suffer a hangover from other Bollywood magnum-opuses.
We must applaud Kangana Ranaut and team for presenting this crucial story in Indian history to celluloid.
In today’s era of women empowerment, one hopes that Manikarnika’s fervour of courage and fearlessness continues to spread.
.5 (3.5/5 stars)