Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi is a biographical account of how Rani Laxmibai waged a war against the East India Company. It chronicles her journey from the place where she grew up, Bithoor to becoming the Rani of Jhansi, and eventually turning into a warrior Queen.
The movie starts with Amitabh Bachchan’s booming baritone where he throws light on how the riches of India are fast being plundered by the British. Within seconds, we are led into the world of Manikarnika through Kangana Ranaut’s imposing screen presence.
Kangana captivates your attention in every frame and grows from strength to strength as the film progresses. This is clearly one of her best performances and the role itself lends ample scope for her to perform. From the tender, beautiful moments of a young girl, to the heavy-duty action scenes from the battlefield soaked in blood and sweat – Kangana effortlessly brings Manikarnika to life. The casualties, in turn, are the rest of the actors, who don’t get a chance to shine just as well. Be it veterans like Danny Denzongpa (as Ghaus Khan, also a prominent figure in history) and Kulbhushan Kharbanda or the debutantes like Ankita Lokhande, who plays the role of Jhalkaribai. All supporting actors including Atul Kulkarni, who plays Tatya Tope and Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta have precious little to do. Needless to say, most of the British characters come off as caricatures, except actor Richard Keep, who plays Sir Hugh Rose.
The narrative of the film directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish, stays on course showing the internal struggle within Jhansi’s royal family and unraveling important historical events during the 1800s. Some incidents like the Meerut Sepoy mutiny of 1857 are used as reference points, but the focus remains on Jhansi’s rebellion against the British.
The film employs a lot of visual effects and most are easily noticeable, which hampers the film’s realism. The scale on which the film is mounted gives it an air of grandeur, however, it lacks the required opulence and finesse.
While there is enough chest thumping jingoism throughout, dialogues by Prasoon Joshi are quite impactful and applause-worthy. They succeed in stoking the patriotic passion within the audience without being too overbearing. The first half is spent in setting up the historical premise, which takes way too long. The second half is where the real drama unfolds with scenes on the battlefield, intense action sequences, bloody killings, escape, loss and triumph. Despite all the moments that draw you into this epic drama, the length of the film slackens the narrative in parts.
The film admittedly uses many cinematic liberties and fictional detours to ensure there aren’t any dull moments in this rousing war drama. There is a strong thread of entertainment that binds it all together. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy add to the patriotic fervour of the movie.
Overall, Manikarnika is a well-made film that highlights Kangana’s prowess as an actor. For a first time filmmaker, she undoubtedly shows spark and potential as a storyteller. Short of an epic, this larger-than-life war drama has enough valour and spirit to keep you engaged in these pages of history.
source: Times of India