The year was 1857 and the valour with which Indians fought for independence got further furious with the Sepoy Mutiny. Not just the queen of the princely state of Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai, over the course of history, also became a glorious figure of resistance and bravery in face of the British aggression as her courage, which was very infectious, spread upon other princely states, setting one dream for all. Independence. Does Kangana Ranaut's directorial debut do justice to the spirit that is immortalised in history? Not until Kangana herself gets down to action.
Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi begins with Manikarnika, a child who was rescued during the war, being brought up by the Peshwa of Bithur. Exchanging the wedding vows with Jhansi's king Gangadhar Rao, she turns Rani Laxmibai, the queen with unmatched beauty, courage and sharpness. Her happiness, however, is tarnished as she soon loses both her husband and her son. This is where Laxmibai's true war begins.
The first half, which builds the foundation of the rest, is rather average, barring the performances. While Kangana establishes herself as the protagonist with ease, she probably needs some more time before her storytelling becomes more subtle yet more effective. Manikarnika's transition to Laxmibai happens rather comfortably and Rani Laxmibai becoming her warrior self after two major personal losses doesn't stir us.
It gears up during the second half as we see the queen in her real glory. In and as Manikarnika, none could have slayed it better than Kangana did. In perfectly choreographed war sequence, she with all her power and passion is a delight to watch. Furthermore, we like the older, braver Kangana so much more! This is also when a piece of history truly comes alive, with the reel Jhansi resisting the demons with all its strength. Ankita Lokhande as Jhalkari Bai has made her presence felt, on and off the ground. Jisshu Sengupta, as Gangadhar Rao, leaves the imprint of a weak but wishful king; and quite powerfully so, albeit he's there for a brief period. Md. Jishan Ayubb, as the unfaithful Sadashiv Rao, eyeing upon the throne of Jhansi, deserves a special mention.
Both Kangana and Krrish, however, have to be credited for maintaining a thorough timeline of events, leaning very little space for abrupt jumps. Hence, the screenplay mostly works fine. In this neatly shot film, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's effective compositions have enhanced the impact of the sequences to many times.
With slices of imperfection here and there, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi definitely deserves a watch from you.