DKODING’S verdict: Kangana reigns as an undisputed “Queen”
Kangana Ranaut’s much-awaited period film is out despite all odds. This is also her first directorial venture, for she is credited along with Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi for being at the helm of the project.
Manikarnika has had its fair share of trouble. Jagarlamudi left the film halfway and Kangana stepped in to shoot specific sequences. Sonu Sood parted ways abruptly, and there were some hushed rumours about Kangana’s interference and high handedness getting into everyone’s way. Not to forget the Karni Sena’s last minute antics and Kangana’s unapologetic comeback.
Also Read: Karni Sena threaten Kangana Ranaut
This film is an opportunity for those who have not heard of the legendary Rani Laxmibai, the warrior queen of Jhansi, who gallantly battled against the British with her infant son tied to her back during the Indian revolution.
Manikarnika (Kangana Ranaut) was born in a Brahmin family but raised as a Kshatriya (warrior). She was later christened Laxmibai by her husband, Maharaj Gangadhar Rao (Jisshu Sengupta) of Jhansi.
Not only did the Queen of Jhansi refuse to let the British annex her princely state after her husband’s death, but this braveheart also fought till the very end, forcing the English to acknowledge that she was indeed the most valiant warrior they had ever encountered.
The film tackles a significant part of history. And it has to be seen on widescreen for its sheer opulence. The period is beautifully recreated by art directors and cinematographers and ensured the scale that the film deserves. Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues have a few gems strewn sporadically. The patriotic fervour it whips to such an extreme outcome in the end, that you inevitably start raising your eyebrows at the contrived narrative.
Overall, this film is awe-inspiring due to its grandeur but fails to touch the emotional chord in your heart. Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover brings back the nostalgia of Lagaan while Kangana Ranaut’s portrayal of one of the most iconic women in Indian history is certainly praise-worthy. Her nuanced grasp of a rebel warrior will certainly win you over.
Kangana single-handedly keeps us invested in the story but the film ultimately is a collaborative effort and that’s where this film falls short.
Gaping holes in the screenplay, cardboard cut-outs that other characters are reduced to, and the distractingly-perfect contouring of Kangana’s character eventually seem to be the film’s undoing.
Jeeshu Sengupta as Manikarnika’s husband has Sanjay Suri dubbing for him. It somehow reduces his impact considerably. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub who stepped in to play Sadashiv Rao, the disgruntled brother, has an extended cameo as does Ankita Lokhande. Atul Kulkarni as Tatia Tope and Danny Denzogpa as Ghulam Ghaus Khan are both capable of so much more but remain under utilised.
The sound design and score of this film are on point and invoke every emotion of freedom in you despite the incidents have happened more than 150 years ago. The music in the film too was riveting and refreshing despite being patriotic.
However, no film is perfect and neither is Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.
The problem is not that Kangana isn’t good intact she’s great in the film. Her stance and body language befits the character perfectly. She’s exceptional in emotional scenes too. But everything and everyone around her seems to be crumbling.
While there are enough action sequences in the film to keep you constantly engaged, there are certain bits in the last 40 minutes of the film, which take away from an otherwise exceptional directorial venture.
First, the screenplay in the second-half is comparatively weak, especially during the third act. Kangana’s accent is annoying and what was a strength of the film in the first two acts (action choreography of the women), resorts to the same old world of slow-motion and still camera during the climax. There are also a number of continuity issues and lack of motivation in the film that you’ll realise when you see it.
But most importantly, the villain in the film is weak, one without conviction, on-screen charisma and at no point seems menacing. Also, Bollywood really needs to stop making these white actors speak in distorted Hindi. Just sounds bizarre and pointless.
While Kangana doesn’t disappoint as an actor, as a director it’s important to lift every aspect of filmmaking.
That’s where the ‘Queen’ looses out. ‘Manikarnika’ doesn’t come together as a composite whole. No doubt, Kangana stands tall but the film remains an average affair that works only sporadically.
Despite all pitfalls, there is still enough in Manikarnika for you to watch the film and cheer for the warrior queen till the end of her story.