BY KANIKA SHEKHAWAT
“Khoob ladi mardani, Jhansi ki rani” was a verse well put by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan ,inspiring all the women in India.The historical epic film Manikarnika puts forward the beauty and brave persona of Rani Laxmibai. Manikarnika gives us the essence of the sacrifices made by our ancestors so that we could live in a free country. The film makers tried to bring alive the sacrifices of Manikarnika not only through historical records but showcased it in their spirit as well. But unfortunately, with inexperienced directors, the broad visual effects are low-grade, the dialogue delivery is very slow and vague, the onscreen performances are pedestrian, the sets have an incomplete feel and the cinematography not an inch close to that of Bajirao Mastani, Padmavaat or Baahubali, even though the directors tried to choose that path. Even the editing could have been better – in many places, the events feel disjointed, though admittedly, because the screenplay had to jump places.
The film is based on the life of Rani Laxmibai who ruled the Indian state of Jhansi in the 1850s. An era where women were asked to be “pariah” and restrict themselves to the kitchen Laxmibai broke all the ties and took formal training in martial arts, which included horse riding, shooting and fencing which was very well enacted by Kangana Ranaut while shooting the tiger and the ease with the sword. While being raised amongst the ballods of Nationalism , the song—“Mein rahu ya na rahu, Bharat yeh rehana chahiye” did get goosebumps and rise the feeling of patriotism. The slight smirk on Laxmibais’s face when the British officer comes to visit her after the marriage and the dialogue delivery of “ yeh sar na darr se jhukta hai na abhimaan se uthta hai, bus aankhon mein aankhein daal swabhiman se khada rehta hai”, is one of the most dominating scenes in the movie. While the film’s best sequence is when Rani (Kangana Ranaut)refuses to shave off her head and wear white, symbolic to being a widow, and instead talked about fulfilling her duty towards Jhansi. These scenes clearly put forward the strong headed and brave nature of Rani Laxmibai, breaking all stereotypes.
The truly impressive part in Manikarnika are the physical stunts executed by the actors, especially Ranaut’s ease with swords. Even that moment when she leaps over three swordsmen to jump on to an elephant and stand on its back, is thrilling to watch although it resembles a shot from Baahubali. The only thing that lacked was a commanding dialogue delivery by Ranaut. Also we see a lot of religious significance in the movie like the British moving canons behind the temple, Hugh Rose dreaming of Kali, the significance of Laxmibai rescuing a calf from the British from being devoured and the movie ending with a sign of an “OM” in flames on the battlefield dramatizing it more like todays India. On the other hand we see a confused take on women empowerment where one sequence shows rani fighting against the British while the other shows gangadar Rao being laughed at for wearing bangles, an ironical take. One major flaw is seen among the actors playing the British role. It’s funny as to how they’re shown conversing amongst each other in Hindi.
Well this movie is not a detailed biopic of Laxmibai as she has been glorified as a superwoman in the real life rather than a warrior. Also, if you’re a lover of action films then the second half would definitely catch your eye and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that emotional drama lover would love the first half of the film.
Kangana;’s performance goes a full arc from an innocent but brave teenager, a wife and lover, a mother and to finally a patriotic warrior, and she nails every shade with priceless facial expressions, regardless of so many actors in the film who are overshadowed by her performance and are kept behind the bars. Before the release of the movie, there were some critics saying that Kangana Ranaut may not be perfect for the role. But I have to admit it that she has answered very well through her acting skills. Personally, after watching the movie, I can’t think of any other actress who could have done this role better than Kangana Ranaut. But all in all Kangana Ranaut’s enthusiasm and spirit in the film are remarkable. She definitely did stand out as an action star but could work little more on her direction skills.
(The movie review reflects the opinion of the author alone and not the stance of Demoice magazine)