Well-known epic warrior Rani Laxmibai died on the battlefield during the 1857-58 revolt against the British, directors Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut present us with a movie on the fearless queen, Manikarnika, whose life was tragically cut short. Film Manikarnika begins with Big B’s booming baritone where he throws light on how the riches of India are fast being looted by the British. Within seconds, we are led into the world of Manikarnika through Kangana Ranaut’s magnificent screen presence.
Film Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi is the tale of the courageous Rani Laxmibai. Manikarnika (Kangana Ranaut) lives in Bithoor and is a favourite of the Peshwa (Suresh Oberoi) and he has brought her up with lot of love. One day Dixit Ji of Jhansi (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) spots her facing an aggressive tiger heroically. Awe-struck, he asks Peshwa for her hand in wedding with Jhansi's king Gangadhar Rao (Jisshu Sengupta). Dixit Ji is aware that the British is eyeing Jhansi and wants to annexe the kingdom at any cost. He realises that her brave persona would play a crucial role in giving a tough fight to the British. The marriage takes place and the king gives her a new name – Laxmibai. All these developments upset Gangadhar's brother Sadashiv (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub). He is friendly with the British and wants to usurp the throne by hook or by crook. Laxmibai, after a few years, gives birth to Damodar and she is unable to contain her happiness. Her joy however is short-lived as Sadashiv surreptitiously poisons Damodar. Gangadhar, at the same time, falls ill too. Knowing that his end is near, he and Laxmibai adopt a son. Gangadhar passes away and the British attempt to annexe the throne. However, Laxmibai surprises everyone as she decides to take over the reins. She proclaims herself as the queen of Jhansi and challenges the British openly. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Kangana enthralls your attention in every scene and she effortlessly brings Manikarnika’s life on screen. Veterans like Danny Denzongpa (as Ghaus Khan), Kulbhushan Kharbanda and the debutant Ankita Lokhande (as Jhalkaribai) justify their roles. All supporting actors including Atul Kulkarni, who essays Tatya Tope and Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta have little scope to show their talents.
The story of the movie directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish, reveals the internal struggle within Jhansi’s royal family and unraveling important historical events during the 1800s. Some instances like the Meerut Sepoy mutiny of 1857 are used as reference points, but the focus remains on Jhansi’s rebellion against the British.
Prasoon Joshi’s dialogues are relatively influential. The first half is spent in setting up the historical premise, which takes way too long. The second half is where the real drama reveals with scenes on the battlefield, intense action sequences, bloody killings, escape, loss and triumph. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy add to the patriotic fervour of the film. But, it suffers from sluggish writing, sloppy visual effects and weird caricaturing of the English.
Overall, film Manikarnika is worthy to watch once for Kangana’s influential act and eye-catching war drama.