Biographical war period films have some standard elements — character establishment of the protagonist through intense slow-motion shots, a moderately paced storyline, initial setbacks suffered by the protagonist, betrayal, riling up of forces, epic battle scenes with epic music, a chilling climax. ‘Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi’ has them all but with none of the punch/soul/emotion that a film like this should ideally have had.
Portraying the protagonist as a living embodiment of everything that is good in the world is something that can be expected from a film like this, but this one takes it a step further with clichéd dialogues and a heavy focus on character establishment, relying on Kangana Ranaut’s looks rather than trying to strike a chord with the audience about what the Rani of Jhansi was actually like.
It also seems to have borrowed elements from other films such as Baahubali, Jodhaa Akbar and caricaturised them to a great extent. There are several instances throughout the film where viewers tend to feel it is being dragged on, going by the audible comments in the theatre.
The fact that there have been several such epic films in the recent times, such as Baahubali and Padmaavat, all with gripping narratives and visuals, raised the bar for this film and sadly, this film fails to even come close to the bar.
Another major letdown is the background score. All the thrilling fight scenes fall with a huge splat owing to the superlatively bland background score. If the makers had focused a little more on getting the tone right, it would have gone a long way towards giving a worthy cinematic experience for the audience.
On the performances, there’s not much to say about anyone else other than Kangana as she dominates the screen. Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Danny Denzongpa, Atul Kulkarni have bit roles compared to Kangana, and they do justice to their roles. Kangana looks good as a queen but definitely lacks the intonation and the charisma that a queen of Rani Lakshmi Bai’s stature would be expected to have.
Perhaps the only element that is praiseworthy of this film is its VFX as it does have some slick shots, especially in the battle sequences. Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone rendering the narration of the film is a tiny consolation for the audience.