The Queen of Jhansi opens up with megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s powerful voice, which tells us that we are about to witness the glorious journey of the valiant queen Laxmibai of Jhansi. Shortly after that, we see the young and beautiful Manikarnika, aiming her bow at a tiger. From the moment Kangana Ranaut makes her entry as the warrior princess, it is evident that she is the star of the film.
Everything about her—from the curly hair to that spark in her eyes—all exude an irresistible.
The original lore based partially on historical accounts is rich enough in dramatic twists and turns and instances of heroism for it to be turned into a film.
K.V.Vijayendra Prasad’s screenplay, for the most part, follows the historical account of Rani Laxmibai originally born as Manikarnika Tambe in Varanasi. Her father, an advisor to the Peshwa trained her in horse-riding, archery shooting and other skills in warfare. She was chosen to be the wife of King Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the King of Jhansi. Bengali star Jisshu Sengupta as Maharaja Gangadhar Rao looks every inch the monarch –stately and imperious –the perfect King. The couple had a son together who died a few months after his birth thereby hastening the arrival of the British who were keen to turn Jhansi into a vassal state. The King suffering from ill-health adopted his cousins’ son who was named Damodar Rao but the British refused to recognise him as the successor and applied for the Doctrine of Lapse. According to the doctrine, any kingdom without a legal male heir would lapse into the control of East India Company.
While the characters are celebrating and living life in the first half (which appears to be slightly lingering), the second half is full of intense action the moment it begins. Hollywood action director Nick Powell has done a great job and Kangana leaves fans applauding in the theatres the way she swings that sword.
The film also uses cinematic devices as in one of the action sequences, Kangana is juxtaposed against the idol of Goddess Durga and looks majestic.
It’s a pity though that the film does not permit the talented ensemble of supporting actors with the likes of Atul Kulkarni, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Danny Denzongpa enough scope to establish the historical characters they represent.
The background music aids the storytelling when Manikarnika reaches its climax, but is soon painful to your ears. The songs blend into the story but there’s nothing to write home about. The film wins hands down in the departments of cinematography and set design.
Dialogues by Prasoon Joshi sit well with the times it is set in and the music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy infuses the right degree of up the patriotism.
Manikarnika, is a brave attempt at resurrecting the legend of a heroic Indian Queen, a feat that it accomplishes.