Undoubtedly, Kangana Ranaut is a fierce woman who unabashedly and unapologetically takes a stand (which sometimes is overblown) roused from the struggle. While Rani Laxmibai is an epitome when it comes to women empowerment right before “feminism” flourished. And an amalgamation of the two is an opportunity missed historical film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. It’s biggest achievement is the pan-India reaching of the complex and complicated narrative of Rani Laxmibai, but it has a major drawback over fact-and-fiction despite its creative liberty. Writer K. Vijayendra Prasad dumbs down the inspiring story into relatively massy compartment abiding empowering engagement given its scale of production. For a simple built-up, the supporting characters dissent themselves into the cinematic service of Rani Laxmibai to make her the deity-figure. While abiding by the textbook narrative, the film never digs into the dynamics beyond the character; it leaves with a tinge of information and understanding about the Queen. Hence, Manikarnika felt like a primary school textbook version rather a cardboard cutout version.
Directors Kangana Ranaut and Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi effectively present valor, a film much better than the underwhelming trailer. It’s an interesting example of preconceived notion, amidst all the mass or rather over-simplistic writing – the embellishment of rich heritage and empowering strength the directors bring in, is highly commendable. Every frame erupts with volcanoes of empowerment, Cinematographers Kiran Deohans & Gnana Shekar VS moves the camera either from below or above to portray the authority. The visual extravaganza leaves a little scope of opulence yet rousing drama weaves feminism naturally. Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues tactfully communicate with contemporary times without losing the essence of the past. VFX disturbs the seamless viewing because of the tangible patchwork and budgetary constraints; from a detailed CGI Tiger to a toxic green-screen climax, the quality degrades drastically.Manikarnika is a Kangana Ranaut show. Her prowess equalizes stature of Rani Laxmibai, her confidence of shouldering strength is amusing and goose-flesh ripping dialogue delivery is commendable. At times, she does go overboard but that doesn’t stop her from worshipping herself in form Rani Laxmibai. Despite all typical odds, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi surmounts the negativity surrounding Kangana and lends a simple passionate stroke.
“You, by yourself be the memorial of Rani (queen of Jhansi) because you had been an eternal token of courage. From the mouths of the religious singers of Bundelkhand, we heard the tale of the courage of the Queen of Jhansi relating how gallantly she fought like a man against the British intruders: such was the Queen of Jhansi.” There’s a gallant visible, deep down the old-school storytelling hinders the intensity which is upheld by the glorious presentation.
Vijayi Bhaava deserves a special mention for masterstroke editing and rhythmic choreography in-synced with sword training. It’s the only aesthetic composition apart from Rani Laxmibai’s authoritarian angles posed against Goddess Kaali. Brace yourself for a sound visual treat! And remember, it’s a work of fiction.
Release: 25 January, 2019
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