'Manikarnika' review: Kangana Ranaut emerges true hero in this war drama
The film strongly portrays common women of the era, who were part of the rebellion.
Set in the 1800s, Manikarnika is a story about Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, one of the key faces of the Indian Rebellion movement. The movie begins in 1828 when Manikarnika (Kangana Ranaut) from Pune, is married to the king of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar (Jishu Sengupta), and is renamed Lakshmibai.
She may look a bit delicate to play a warrior, but Kangana does justice to the role by bringing to life the legendary war hero with her grit and fierce act. She displays her sword fighting skills, that gives sleepless nights to a British officer, with aplomb.
Kangana also makes her debut as a co-director in this film, and you can feel her touch in the way Lakshmibai's personal life is portrayed. She is brought up as a sword fighter, married to a king, but doesn't want to be a traditional queen. Lakshmibai deals with her personal loss with grace and takes over the reins of Jhansi with dignity. Kangana is convincing in the film as her character progresses from being a warrior to a wife, from a mother and leader to a patriot and a people's queen to finally a martyr.
Though there is a sensitive side to most of the male characters in the film like Lakshmibai's husband (Jishu Sengupta), Ghouse Khan (Danny Denzongpa), Peshwa Bajirao II (Suresh Oberoi) and Tatya Tope (Atul Kulkarni), K V Vijayendra Prasad doesn't force feminism in his screenplay, but rather weaves it with relatable instances and characters.
The war is depicted with a difference. The ugliness of the rebellion movement is shown through a sensitive gaze. The scene where Lakshmibai urges women to join the war in spite of her General's question, "Can we trust women in war?" is inspiring. The scenes of sari-clad women on horses who don't think twice before slitting the throats of their enemies make you sit up and take note. Television actor Ankita Lokhande, as one of the foot soldiers, gets a few scenes that she delves into boldly.
We are used to seeing period dramas through the lens of Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Ashutosh Gowariker - the opulent sets, obsessive attention to costumes and jewellery, but in Manikarnika... you tend to overlook them. The film makes up for lack of grandeur, if any, with strong characters, powerful dialogues by Prasoon Joshi and a screenplay with a deft touch, rarely going over-the-top.
Music composer trio, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, lift the movie with anthems like Bharat, Vijayi Bhava. Abhishek Ghatak's background score is pulsating in the battlefield scenes towards the climax. The music department makes sure Kangana gets her heroic moment, befitting the star of the film.
In the end, Manikarnika belongs to Kangana.
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Ankita Lokhande, ishu Sengupta, Danny Dengongzpa, Suresh Oberoi, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Atul Kulkarni, Kulbhushan Kharbanda
Directors: Kangana Ranaut, Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi