Manikarnika movie review: Kangana Ranaut’s war epic has many moments of genius

Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi waali Rani thi – call her Rani Laxmi Bai, Manikarnika or the warrior queen, she is the arguably the most popular woman freedom fighter in the country and only one of the few who made it to our history books as a name to be reckoned with. So, actress Kangana Ranaut had a huge responsibility on her shoulder when she decided on donned the great warrior queen on the big screen. Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi lives up to the hype.

Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika The Queen of Jhansi

It is no Sanjay Leela Bhansali war-drama, but the makers have ensured that the film got the scale it deserved. To begin with, the cinematography is just breath-taking and right from the word go. Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover makes you nostalgic of Lagaan while Kangana Ranaut’s portrayal, of one of most iconic women in Indian history is certainly praise-worthy. Her nuanced grasp of a rebel warrior royalty will certainly win you over.

But the best part about the film is its action choreography, especially in which women are being featured. Be it Kangana herself or popular TV actress Anikta Lokhande, who made her Bollywood debut as Jhalkari Bai in the movie, are flawless with the sword. And nothing like what we have seen in the past. Despite the fact that Lokhande doesn’t get many opportunities to show her mettle with her dramatic acting chops, but she very much makes it up with her skill with the blade. Even ther extras (women) were phenomenal with weapons.

The sound design and score of this film are on point and invoke every emotion of freedom in you despite the incidents having happened more than 150 years ago. The individual performances by the supporting cast was minimal yet memorable. Atul Kulkarni was excellent as Tantia Tope, but didn’t get enough screen-time. Jisshu Sengupta, who played Maharaja Gangadhar Rao and Rani Laxmi Bai’s husband, was more than just impressive. Suresh Oberoi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda too did their bit.

Danny Denzongpa as Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan had the same chrisma on the big-screen as he did in films like Khuda Gawah, Hum and Ageepath. But don’t worry, he fight for the right side in this one. The music in the film too was riveting and refreshing despite being patriotic.

However, no film is perfect and neither is Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. While there is enough action sequences in the film to keep you constantly engaged, there are certain bits in the last 40 minutes of the film, which take away from an otherwise exceptional directorial venture.

First, the screenplay in the second-half is comparatively weak, especially during the third act. Kangana’s accent is annoying and what was a strength of the film in the first two acts (action choreography of the women), resorts to the same old world of slow-motion and still camera during the climax. There are also a number of continuity issues and lack of motivation in the film that you’ll realise when you see it.

But most importantly, the villain in the film is weak, one without conviction, on-screen charisma and at no point seems menacing. Also, Bollywood really needs to stop making these white actors speak in distorted Hindi. Just sounds bizarre and pointless. Be that as it may, there is still enough in Manikarnika for you to want to cheer the warrior queen till the end of her story.

Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika The Queen of Jhansi Manikarnika The Queen of Jhansi stars | Photo Credit: YouTube
‘Khoob ladi mardaani woh toh Jhansi waali Rani thi – call her Rani Laxmi Bai, Manikarnika or the warrior queen, she is the arguably the most popular woman freedom fighter in the country and only one of the few who made it to our history books as a name to be reckoned with. So, actress Kangana Ranaut had a huge responsibility on her shoulder when she decided on donned the great warrior queen on the big screen. Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi lives up to the hype.

It is no Sanjay Leela Bhansali war-drama, but the makers have ensured that the film got the scale it deserved. To begin with, the cinematography is just breath-taking and right from the word go. Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover makes you nostalgic of Lagaan while Kangana Ranaut’s portrayal, of one of most iconic women in Indian history is certainly praise-worthy. Her nuanced grasp of a rebel warrior royalty will certainly win you over.

But the best part about the film is its action choreography, especially in which women are being featured. Be it Kangana herself or popular TV actress Anikta Lokhande, who made her Bollywood debut as Jhalkari Bai in the movie, are flawless with the sword. And nothing like what we have seen in the past. Despite the fact that Lokhande doesn’t get many opportunities to show her mettle with her dramatic acting chops, but she very much makes it up with her skill with the blade. Even ther extras (women) were phenomenal with weapons.

The sound design and score of this film are on point and invoke every emotion of freedom in you despite the incidents having happened more than 150 years ago. The individual performances by the supporting cast was minimal yet memorable. Atul Kulkarni was excellent as Tantia Tope, but didn’t get enough screen-time. Jisshu Sengupta, who played Maharaja Gangadhar Rao and Rani Laxmi Bai’s husband, was more than just impressive. Suresh Oberoi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda too did their bit.

Danny Denzongpa as Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan had the same chrisma on the big-screen as he did in films like Khuda Gawah, Hum and Ageepath. But don’t worry, he fight for the right side in this one. The music in the film too was riveting and refreshing despite being patriotic.

However, no film is perfect and neither is Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. While there is enough action sequences in the film to keep you constantly engaged, there are certain bits in the last 40 minutes of the film, which take away from an otherwise exceptional directorial venture.

First, the screenplay in the second-half is comparatively weak, especially during the third act. Kangana’s accent is annoying and what was a strength of the film in the first two acts (action choreography of the women), resorts to the same old world of slow-motion and still camera during the climax. There are also a number of continuity issues and lack of motivation in the film that you’ll realise when you see it.

But most importantly, the villain in the film is weak, one without conviction, on-screen charisma and at no point seems menacing. Also, Bollywood really needs to stop making these white actors speak in distorted Hindi. Just sounds bizarre and pointless. Be that as it may, there is still enough in Manikarnika for you to want to cheer the warrior queen till the end of her story.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Manikarnika has many moments of genius and enough fire to keep you glued to the screen. Kangana’s performance as Rani of Jhansi is worth every penny spent. So, if you are looking to feel patriotic this Republic Day and watch a visually stunning bit of cinema, go for this one with friends and family and you’ll have a great time at the theatres.

Review by: Shibaji Roychoudhury
Rating: 4 stars

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