Nothing can be more thrilling than to watch bravery saga of a warrior queen, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi. Jump out of our history textbooks onto celluloid screen with a war cry of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ in finest of drapery.
I hail Kangana Ranaut as Rani in MANIKARNIKA because she breaks this well-guarded male bastion monopoly of Bollywood stereotypes. Women-centric films are released by dime-a-dozen. But an actress who is a director and lead actor of a period film having expensive production budget and exhaustive war sequences is a rarity in Bollywood. Yet one can easily sense BAJIRAO MASTANI and PADMAVAT hangover while watching various battle scenes, elaborate costume drama, and opulent studio sets.
Unfortunately, such biopics have to pass through the major hurdle of comparison with the historical facts and figures. Hence, the film is expected to be an honest rendition. So, to hold viewers interest, MANIKARNIKA has to actually add more dimensions to Rani’s personality or throw more light on the untold stories. But with a disclaimer already in place, the film does add fictional twists for added drama. Though one misses the deft understanding of a seasoned director like say, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, to handle such ‘Big – canvas subjects’.
The film opens to a fragile yet resolute frame of young Kangana in the jungles of Bithoor. A born-leader in every aspect, Manikarnika is a trained combat warrior by Peshwas. Her act of daredevilry impresses the royalty enough, and she is crowned as queen of Jhansi.
Delicate like a dewdrop, yet Kangana masquerades with supreme confidence and is a sight to behold in every attire whether in a nine-yard Maharashtrian saree or a warrior dress or in a metal sheath with a turban !!!!
Kangana gives her 200% to Rani of Jhansi and deserves a standing ovation for larger – than – life performance.
As a director, she may have faltered, ebbed or even erred but it is worth appreciating that she dared !!! …. raise your glasses 😊
Though first half is dedicated to the character build-up, the actual revolt breaks out in the second half when British boots are marching towards Jhansi with the power to annex any kingdom that has lost its king without a natural male heir to the throne. With a clarion call of ‘Mein meri Jhansi nahi doongi’, Rani Laxmibai decides to go down fighting against British troops rather than meekly parting with her beloved kingdom and her subjects…..rest, they say is a History.
Courtesy Hollywood action director, Nick Powell of THE GLADIATOR and THE LAST SAMURAI fame, battle scenes under the crimson sky are thick and fast drenched in blood, gore and sweat. Though many times, that next-to-impossible high jump over an elephant or that swash of naked sword cutting across too many throats at a time seems going overboard with VFX effects.
Also, like every quintessential woman, Kangana takes a self-centred approach. Because by putting herself in every frame and every scene, she has unfortunately pushed all-important supporting characters to the periphery.
That also explains the short-thrift treatment given to Ankita Lokhande as a female lead of all-women cavalry ☹.
The loss is ours since talented duo like Danny Dengzompa as Ghaus Khan and Atul Kulkarni as Tantya Tope have precious little to do in the film though pages of history have been more than generous with their achievements.
Manikarnika swings high on patriotism and women empowerment
Feisty dialogues peppered with dollops of national pride and richness of India impresses you initially but overuse hampers the desired effect.
Songs by Shanker Ehsaan Loy are situational and are mostly used to keep up the tempo of high-voltage action drama.
A huge round of applause for the costume – jewellery designer for the exquisite accessories and colour-coordinated outfits. Even DOP ( director of photography ) has contributed immensely towards the film by highlighting the smallest details to the fullest.
Even if MANIKARNIKA: THE QUEEN OF JHANSI may have turned and twisted a few episodes here and there, the fact of the matter remains that the film deserves a chance to win you over.