In one of the scenes in Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi, Ghulam Ghaus Khan (Danny Denzongpa) who is breathing his last after getting severely wounded, tells Rani Laxmibai that he wouldn't be alive to see the 'jeet ka jashan'. Sadly by the end, the film gives you just a handful of reasons to rejoice.
Kangana Ranaut's directorial debut jumps straight to the point without wasting much time. To begin with, we are introduced to the world of Manikarnika in the heavy baritone of Amitabh Bachchan. Those who are looking forward to get a glimpse into the Queen's childhood, get ready to be disappointed because the film steers clear of that phase.
'Chhabili' Manikarnika's (Kangana Ranaut) courage and valour is established right from her introductory scene where we see her having a face-off with a ferocious tiger (The shoddy VFX is laughable here). She's an ace in horsemanship and fencing and soon catches the attention of Kulbhushan Kharbanda. He is keen to get her married to Maharaja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar of Jhansi (Jisshu Sengupta). Soon, Manikarnika becomes Rani Laxmibai.
Soon, she gives birth to a boy whom they name Damodar Rao. Unfortunately, the infant doesn't live long leaving Rani Laxmibai and the entire kingdom in sorrow. When the East India Company comes up with the 'doctrine of lapse', the king and the queen adopt a boy and name him after their deceased son. However, Gangadhar Rao too succumbs to his ill-health and Rani Lakshmibai takes over the reigns of Jhansi proclaiming, "Laxmi vidwa hui hai, uski Jhansi abhi bhi suhagan hain."
The rest of the film revolves around how Rani Laxmibai refuses to surrender Jhansi to the British Raj. She puts forth the message clear, 'Hum ladegen....Taki aane wali padiyon apni azaadi ke ustav manayen.'
Kangana Ranaut is credited as the director of 'Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi' along with Krrish. However, the leading lady still has a long way to go when it comes to calling the shots. K. Vijayendra Prasad's writing fails to impress this time.
Too many creative liberties play a major spoilsport. Also, there are a couple of scenes which make you chuckle. There's a scene where Ankita Lokhande's Jhalkari Bai breaks into some weird sort of dance and soon, the queen too joins in for a few moments. Like, really? In yet another scene, General Huge Rose is seen hallucinating about Goddess Kaali. The dialogues barring one or two fail to create a roaring impact.
Speaking about the performances, the spotlight is on Kangana Ranaut right from the first scene till the last. The actress is explosive when it comes to scenes where she is communicating her anger at bowing down to the British. Initially when the film starts, Kangana's accent comes as a bit turn-off. However, the actress soon stands tall when it comes to nailing the emotionally-charged scenes.
Jisshu Sengupta as Gangadhar Rao sails fine. Ankita Lokhande who makes her Bollywood debut with this film puts in her best efforts, but her half-baked role prevents her from shining bright. Vaibhav Tatwawaadi and Taher Shabir doesn't get much scope to perform. Mishti Chakraborty too puts up an okay show.
It's disheartening to watch actors like Atul Kulkarni, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Danny Denzongpa being saddled with such poorly-sketched roles.
Kiran Deohans and Gnana Shekar V.S' cinematography spells of grandiose. Rameshwar Bhagat and Surag Jagptap's editing is sloppy. Coming to the music department, barring 'Vijayi Bhava', none of the tracks linger with you for long. While the sword-fighting scenes are impressive, the battle sequences turn out to be a repetitive and tiresome experience instead.
While Kangana Ranaut makes sure that Manikarnika is her battlefield where she is the sole brightest star, she fails to realize that it's the way a team plays as a whole which determines its success. I am going with 2.5 stars.