“Chamak uthi san sattawan main, woh talwar purani thi…
Bundele harbolon ke munh hamne suni kahaani thi…
Khub ladi mardaani woh toh…Jhansi wali rani thi…”
These refrain couplet from the poem ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’, written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, digs deep into the psyche as the reader reads further into the poem. It is a paean of the triumph of Rani Laxmi Bai, the lionhearted queen of Jhansi, whose courage and bravery had forced even the staunchest of the Britishers to acknowledge her audacity. Even Sir Hugh Roses who defeated the queen describes her in his memoirs, as the man among the mutineers. It is kind of fitting that Kangana Ranaut plays Rani Laxmi Bai on screen. Her audacity to direct the film whose original director had left it midway and the sheer fearlessness to helm such a grand film entirely on her shoulder makes her born for this role. Kangana the actor doesn’t disappoint at all. Kangana the director falters here and there, yet eventually comes up on top. ‘Manikarnika’ is the kind of film, that grows on you. Released around Republic day, this film is tailored to bring out the patriotism fervour in the viewer.
The movie takes the viewer through Rani Laxmi Bai’s life, born as Manikarnika to a brahmin father, brought up as a warrior by the Peshwa of the princely state of Bithoor. Her beauty and bravery lead her path to the kingdom of Jhansi, as the queen of king Gangadhar Newalkar. The untimely death of the king leaves the kingdom heirless and the British refuse to consider the adopted son. Amidst the unrest of Sepoy mutiny of 1857 and the nationwide rebel against the British, the brave heart queen becomes a martyr while fighting valiantly with her enemies.
The script has been written by K V Vijayendra Prasad, whose body of work includes the two Bahubali movies. It goes without saying that the man knows his craft very well. A grand canvas, flourished with the epic dialogues written by Prasoon Joshi would have become even grander, had it been helmed by a person with a keen detail to the eye. Directors like Ashutosh Gowariker, Ketan Mehta, even S.S Rajamouli would have been perfect for this script. Director Krish and later Kangana Ranaut pull the film through, but the lack of finesse surfaces at times. The first half has some parts, which could’ve been edited out, especially a song that feels unwarranted. Editing is a big culprit here, as the movie gets dragged towards the end, only to be saved by an epic climax. There is so much of Kangana in the film that at times, you wish for the other actors to pitch in. Mind you, in the film, there are actors of the statures of Danny Denzongpa, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Mohd Zeeshan Ayub and Atul Kulkarni. But the camera is in so much of love with Kangana, that it fails to notice the other actors. Maybe it’s the director’s indulgence about the actor, oh wait, isn’t she the director!
But despite all these, Kangana shines in the film. Those who have followed her career can notice a great improvement in her acting, with every film of her. She looks, walks and talks like the part she is in. Every frame, that she features, remains etched in the memory. As an actor, she becomes Rani Laxmi Bai, flesh and soul. The fight sequences, aided by VFX gives goosebumps. Though not much emphasis is given to the rest of the actors, Richard Keep as General Hugh Roses, Jisshu Sengupta as king Gangadhar Rao and Ankita Lokhande as Jhalkari Bai shine in their respective roles. The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy goes with the mood of the film, though it’s the background score by Sanchit Balhara which keeps growing on you.
Eventually, it’s the film that soars above everything and reminds you of the bravery of some lionhearted men and women who laid their lives, so that we can breathe in the air of independence. It’s a film that needs to be watched by everyone. As Mr Amitabh Bachchan, the defacto king of voiceovers, concludes the movie with these magnificent lines, the viewer remains in awe of this brave queen of Jhansi, who sacrificed herself at the tender age of twenty-nine.
Mardo main mardaani thi woh…Jhansi wali rani thi woh…
The Cinemawala Rating: 3.5/5