Manikarnika Review: An Effective Revision of Your School History Book Chapter


Manikarnika Review: An Effective Revision of Your School History Book Chapter

Illustration: Arati Gujar


he thing about a movie like Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, or any biopic on the life of a celebrated freedom fighter is, you already have an audience eager and willing to like the film — even at the cost of overlooking obvious inaccuracies in the screenplay for the sake of dramatic effect and turning the other way when the desh bhakti sentiment is unabashedly dialled up. It’s tough to mess up a film when you have so much going for it — Kiran Deohans and Gnana Shekar VS’ cinematography is hauntingly beautiful; Nick Powell’s action direction is purposeful, precise and thrilling; and Kangana Ranaut’s body language (if not dialogue delivery) is urgent, unyielding, and on point. And yet, Manikarnika somehow manages the task… Somewhat.

I came away from the two-hour-28-minute saga about the young warrior queen and her heroic exploits on the battlefield in 1857 and 1858 against the British only fleetingly impressed — the overarching sentiment was that of disappointment, and the vague feeling of having just sat through a long, oversimplified, un-nuanced retelling of one of the most important chapters in India’s freedom struggle. If after watching an entire full-length film about a person your knowledge and understanding about said person is exactly the same as what it was after you spent 10 minutes memorising the highlights of her life for a history exam in school, the makers have a problem. There’s no delicate way of saying this — the person that directors Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika lets down most spectacularly is Rani Laxmibai, the legendary queen of Jhansi, herself.