Kangana Ranaut had a huge responsibility on her shoulders with Manikarnika because this is a film about one of India’s most loved and popular warrior queen. A film that needed someone powerful and bold to play the role and Kangana was perfect for the role. It seemed like the role was made for her.
Having said that, though I don’t like talking about films in halves, but I have to say that the film picked up pace only in the second half. The first half was a bit lengthy and could have been cut shorter. The detailing about Manikarnika’s life could have been crisper.The first half gave you the feeling that they were trying too hard to make it look like a Sanjay Leela Bhansali historical film, but at the same time a more ‘Bollywoodised’ version of it complete with an item number by Ankita Lokhande, later joined by the Rani herself!
There were some scenes in the first half of the film where I couldn’t help but compare it to some of the Disney movies. To begin with, the first scene where Kangana is holding a bow and arrow and aiming at a tiger, looked exactly like a scene out of Disney’s animated movie Brave, right from her hair to the way she holds the bow and arrow. Then the scene where her husband Maharaja Gangadhar (Jishu Sengupta) gifts Rani Laxmibai a library reminded me of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, where the Beast gifts Belle a beautiful humongous and enviable library filled to the brim with books! Another scene was when Rani Laxmibai confronts a robber and it turns out that he steals only to give to the poor reminded me of Robin Hood! The Britishers in the film also give you a very ‘Lagaan ish’ feeling especially their distorted Hindi and accent. So basically, the first half was a little mix of everything.
It was the second half that kept you engaged and moved at a faster pace. The action sequences in the second half are worth a mention and have been executed well. Kangana looks every bit the warrior queen, though there are scenes where you feel her dialogue delivery could have been much better. She is fierce and dominates each and every scene and frame with her powerful act. Special mention to the scene where she breaks down when she loses her baby and also the scene where she is forced to sword fight with her ailing husband. The way she handles the emotions in both the scenes if remarkable.
The women in the supporting cast, fighting the war clad in the typical Marathi saris, look convincing. Anikta Lokhande as Jhalkari Bai makes an impressive debut and the way she uses the sword and fights the war is flawless too. Danny Denzongpa as Rani Laxmibai’s right hand Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan adds value to the film. Atul Kulkarni as Tantia Tope was good.
Yes, it was difficult not to notice the beautiful jewellery and saris that Kangana wears in the film! While the costumes, sets and locations were great, what could have been much better was the VFX. Scenes like the one where General Huge gets a nightmare where he sees Goddess Kaali was pathetic and unnecessary and the VFX was equally bad. It was almost like they were forcefully trying to add humor to the film.
But all said and done Kangana’s fiery act is definitely worth watching. Though the film has flaws, there is still a lot to watch in the film especially the bravery shown by the women. Manikarnika celebrates the valour of not only Jhansi Ki Rani but all women. It also brings alive a brave and beautiful story from history, a story that needed to be told.
It is a film worth watching this Republic Day! Go for it