The story of Jhansi Ki Rani is, as they say, a tale as old as time itself. She was, in fact, one of the few female leaders we’ve heard of breaking the norms and whatever ceilings that would’ve held her back in the 1880s. Even historical accounts by the British describe her as one of the most dangerous rebels in the history of the Indian rebellion. The cinematic representation of the queen proves to be a fair account of this. Manikarnika- The Queen Of Jhansi gives us an in-depth look into the queen’s life. It is a pleasant surprise to see how Manu (Manikarnika) the young girl grows up among progressive men who encourage her to read and be skilled in all things that are stereotypically considered “manly.” From endlessly being engrossed in books to sword fighting and horse riding, she excels in all of these above her brothers. It is refreshing to see a queen who holds her chin up rather than go with the societal norms of what’s right. This, right here, is exactly why this is a great watch for young girls who are afraid of being different. The film rightly portrays the Queen of Jhansi as anything but normal. She may have seemed crazy to them back then, but she was an intelligent and brave woman who made her own decisions, stuck by them and became a beacon of hope when everyone else had given up. The story of Rani Laxmibai does half of the work itself and Kangana Ranaut had some pretty big shoes to fill in portraying this woman of steel. 2019, I feel, is the best time for this story of women power to be retold, because girls who are growing up will finally have a woman-centric superhero movie to look up to.
While the first half is a bit dragging, the second half is just as gripping. Both– Manikarnika, the character and Kangana, the actor– come into their own from the scene right before the interval and from there on, you root for the queen. What is amazing about this version of the story is how it shows the difference one woman can make. The movie takes us through different stages of the Rani’s life and we go through all of that with her. Kangana is mind-blowing in the emotionally-charged scenes, most of which are in the second half. The movie is filled with impressive fight sequences and the actress delivers each of those sequences to perfection. The action choreography is the best part of this movie whether it involves Kangana or other women.
The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy evokes the patriotic feels as it should. While Kangana takes the centre stage with acting, the others have minimal roles to play but make the best use of the time they have. Ankita Lokhande makes an impressive debut as Jhalkaribhai. Another actor that really shines on screen is Jisshu Sengupta, who plays Rani Laxmi Bai‘s husband, Maharaja Gangadhar Rao.
While you face a lot of continuity problems in the first half, all of that is taken care of in the second half. By the end of the film, you feel nothing but proud to call the actress and the woman she was portraying a part of our country.
Putting aside the all-too-obvious CGI moments, overdramatic dialogues and a startling dance number in the first half; Manikarnika is a movie that has some amazing superhero moments that you usually find in only hero-driven and male-centric films.
For a film that tells a tale of girl power, powerful action, and Kangana’s acting chops; give it a watch.