When a film is made on one of the strongest leaders of India ever had, the expectations are doubled and all we seek is motivation and inspiration from this larger than life character of the 'Queen of Jhansi' popularly known as Rani Laxmibai. The key leader that comes to our mind in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (the first ever war against the Britishers) and Kangana Ranaut does step in the shoes of this prestigious role well. What she didn't fit in was in the shoes of a director and that's where this highly potential match-winner film suffers a lot with dull screenplay and direction.
Born in a Maratha Peshwa Brahmin family, she was named Manikarnika Tambe, her family members called her Manu and the beginning scene is when she fires a bow to a tiger but doesn't kill it urging her people to leave it in the jungle. We see a smiling Kangana aka Manu riding horses and sword fights with her brother and guardian Tatya Tope played by Atul Kulkarni who barely has screen presence despite being a pivotal freedom fighter of the Indian rebellion of 1857. The film had a lot of crucial characters to follow but the narrative doesn't do justice and each one of them are unestablished and rushes towards a conclusion. Kangana Ranaut excels as the Queen quite gracefully and the dialogue delivery is fantastic as well as she truly shines as a thorough Nationalist; but there are loopholes after loopholes in this 148 minutes long narrative.
'Manikarnika' gets married to Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Newalkar played by Jishu Sengupta who has keen interest in art and literature which is not established in a clumsy rushed narrative. We look for charming chemistry between the two and then we tend to forget that it's not a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. We can let go off all the bungle and the blunder that we see with our eyes while watching this period drama. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as Sadashiv Rao is a throne hungry brother of Raja Gangadhar and a sluggish antagonist in the film. Finally, Kangana decides to establish a character and it is Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan played by Danny Denzongpa who was a joy to watch, an extremely convincing character that fits in the film well. Only one best scene in the entire film is when a widowed Kangana Ranaut shuts her mother-in-law with powerful dialogues and denies the ritual of getting bald and rather settle on the throne giving some sense for sure. The forced Hindi speaking British officer captain Gordon Edward Sonnenblick was a believable character as well but his cruelty is overdone as well.
The way she conquers the territory expanding the Maratha empire was so lame and unconvincing that I felt like walking out of the theatre for a loo break. It was great to see the feminist narrative working along with the Nationalist approach of not bowing down to the Britisher but so many shallow and un-moving sequences are the culprit of this film. The notable performer of the film is undoubtedly Ankita Lokhande as Jhalkari Bai and she plays this historic role with conviction. Looks like Sonu Sood and director Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi left the project for very right reasons and it is surely Kangana's interference in the direction.
Shankar Mahadevan gives a huge sigh of relief with two strong patriotic song that gives us goosebumps and they are 'Bharat' and 'Vijaya Bhava'. The rest of the film is bland and we see no josh lifting our spirit up. A solid potential film is wasted in terms of execution and treatment to the script and yes we can blame Kangana for it. "Khoob Ladi Mardaani voh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi" a poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan as these words are enough to sense the most heroic rebel that shook British India and these powerful lines are much more impact than the entire film. Amitabh Bachchan's narration in the start and the climax gives it a bit of weight but at the end its not worth it.
Dialogues by Prasoon Joshi is what we can remember walking out of the theatre. Vfx work was too dull. A request to Kangana whole-heartedly not to direct any film again as "Jis ka kaam usi ko saaje- aur kare to Thenga Baje" a quote which she resembles for sure. Shaky cinematography is also a point which disappointed me and certain shots are of a television soap standard. Overall, this Kangana Ranaut film doesn't stand up as a genuine biopic and we would want justice and wish Sanjay Leela Bhansali to direct this with Sara Ali Khan the Queen. Skip this film if you have a brain to sustain.