Thursday, 24 November, 2022
HomeOpinionKangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika is your guide to becoming a good Bharatiya

Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika is your guide to becoming a good Bharatiya

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Kangana Ranaut-starrer Manikarnika is high on nationalism and low on content.

Election season is upon us and if you thought poll rally speeches would not make their way into movie scripts, you are naïve.

Bharat, which is evoked in almost every political speech these days, is literally the heart and soul of Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika, popularly known as Rani Lakshmibai.

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi is set in the Benaras of 1828, and opens with a baby girl being christened Manikarnika at a ghat by the same name.

Even before the baby gets to say maa or paa, a Brahmin is telling another Brahmin that she is meant for greater things. Soon, a fortune teller tells us that she is a Bharatiya who will go down in history as a legendary figure like ‘Shri Ram’. Yes, you roll your eyes but as a good Bharatiya, you want to give this Kangana Ranaut-directed movie a chance.

Also Read: Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika is the perfect Bharat Mata for Modi’s India

A random cut later, we are introduced to a grown-up Manikarnika (Kangana Ranaut) pointing her arrow at a tiger. For a second, her wind-washed curly hair reminds you of Merida from Brave. But this is no DunBroch, this is Bithoor in 1848 when the British have annexed princely territories.

This was a time when the anger against the East India Company was starting to simmer among the princely states. But don’t look for a mention of historical events like Doctrine of Lapse or the Sepoy Mutiny in this period drama. I can already visualise my history teacher fuming over the sweeping creative liberties the movie takes.

All through the movie, Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika talks about krodh (anger) and kranti (rebellion). At least twice, I thought I would take her words seriously and walk out of the theatre as an act of rebellion against poor cinema. Listening to the staid dialogues, one wonders if this is the same Prasoon Joshi who excelled as a lyricist in Taare Zameen Par and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

Historical facts aside, Ranaut as Manikarnika impresses you in bits and pieces. She lacks the steely resolve of a Devasena or a Sivagami of Baahubali. You see flashes of brilliance – in a scene, she refuses to go to Kashi and instead gets ready for the battle. Otherwise, all through the film, the thickness of Ranaut’s fake eye lashes remains inversely proportional to the emotional intensity she brings into a scene.

Manikarnika is a warrior queen but lacks agency. She wields a sword, but never fights patriarchy. Her valour, battle skills and braveness are eventually validated by a British general she fights, Sir Hugh Rose.

The second half of the film boasts of some convincing sword action, although Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai have done it with more conviction in Bajirao Mastani and Jodha Akbar. Ranaut looks ravishing in her bloodthirsty war mode, but choreographed histrionics like horses jumping off fort walls, slow motion slaying of the British flag and endless GFX-generated soldiers are a killjoy.

Also Read: Kangana Ranaut’s Modi comment shows she is a feminist, but only for herself

But I suppose a true Bharatiya is supposed to enjoy watching British soldiers getting slayed.

Neeta Lulla’s costumes are impressive and capture the splendour of Maratha royalty. Production designers Sriram Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant too have done a commendable job of recreating the luxurious palaces of the 19th century. But Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music fails to deliver a memorable tune.

The movie lacks the period drama grandeur of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and the narrative flow of Ashutosh Gowarikar. It rides on jingoistic dialogues and religious symbolism.

Nevertheless, Bollywood finally has a period drama where the central figure is a woman. One hopes for more such productions, but with less political compulsions to impress.

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  1. Rani Lakshmi Bai never fought for the country but against Doctrine of Lapse. There was no country back then perse. Just because someone fights against British becomes a nationalist. All rulers were protecting personal interests. Everyone cares for power, fame, dynasty and dominance. No one, I repeat No one cared and will care for the nation.

  2. This is the shittiest review I have read in recent times. I don’t care if you didn’t like the movie one bit coz that’s your choice but do not say things which are non sensical. She picks up the sword but doesn’t fight patriarchy. Are you even serious? Do you even understand what patriarchy means? Or feminism? The movie has some of best defining scenes of woman empowerment and no I am not talking about war sequences. The child widow scene is an iconic scene in the history of Indian cinema. And also do you think fighting patriarchy was the big agenda of that time? At least think before you write such things.

  3. Apparently, loving our own country is not so interesting anymore. Manikarnika became a Queen and ruled the kingdom, but apparently this is not fighting patriarchy. Kuchch bhi.

  4. This article is written with a tone as if it’s the worst thing in the world to try to become a good bharatiya. It’s written by someone with a strong colonial (leftist) sense of Indian history – she calls 1857 first war of independence as ‘sepoy mutiny’ as it was labeled by British colonial rulers. And yes, the word ‘patriarchy’ had to be thrown in somewhere whether it fits or belongs in the context or not because it’s so vogue these days. The writer couldn’t imagine being perceived as someone out of touch with the leftist zeitgeist.

  5. The print is full of moron…Don’t try to draw unnecessary parallels…I don’t understand why are you comparing Manikarnika with some mythical characters who did not have much role to play except fanning male ego…seriously your articles are getting boring and I can see the standards of journalism is falling to great depths… Stop chanting old narratives…Do you believe in some serious journalism or you always prefer to react…You are so reactionary….What is wrong in loving ones own country?You people belong to that school of thought who keeps on criticising without giving any alternative…

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