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An impassioned Manikarnika movie review by Surbhi Rastogi that speaks of how she much she loved the movie, recommending this as a must watch.
I had to watch Manikarnika, ‘coz bachpan se, Jhansi Ki Rani is like the woman icon of all times. It was Republic Day, and this was the most patriotic thing we could do as a family in a big, bad city, besides standing up and singing the National Anthem played before the movie.
Sigh. I still remember as a little girl of 9 or 10 years visiting the Jhansi ka kila in Uttar Pradesh, and standing there on top of the fort as the guide narrated the story of how the powerful and rebellious queen riding a horse jumped from that fort with her son tied on her back to make sure that she and her child did not fall in the hands of the horrible British. I remember looking all the way down the wall of the fort and thinking, how could anybody have done this? What would’ve motivated her? In my photographic memory, I can still see that little girl standing there. And I am so proud Kangana decided to tell this story. Because it is powerful. It is motivational. It is rebellious. It will bring change.
The movie starts slow… honestly I cringed at few of the initial scenes, as I felt it to be too dramatic with some forced acting. In the initial part of the movie the budget constraints show. But in the second half of the movie, Kangana takes over.
And how! Her acting, dialogue delivery, fight sequences, expressions – every single thing is amazing. That scene when she portrays postpartum depression when her son dies… amazing. Then again her denouncement of rituals post becoming a widow. So powerful, it keeps you at the edge of your seat. She chooses duty over tradition. And breaks all the moulds.
The scene where she gives haldi-kumkum to a girl widow? The colour, the cinematography, the expression! Cannot get over it. The scene replays in my mind again and again with my eyes open. Since how many years have we meted out injustice to widows? Just made them dissolve into oblivion? Losing her husband finishes her life, is it? She can’t wear colour? Or laugh her heart out? Why? What did she do? Kangana goes on to mouth a powerful dialogue, ‘Tumhe pehli baar haldi-kumkum kisne lagaya tha?’ (Who had applied haldi-kumkum to you first?)
The girl replies, ‘Maa ne.’ (My mother.)
‘Toh jo hakk tumhari Maa ne tumhe diya hai, woh tumse koi nahi cheen sakta.’ (So the right that your mother has given you, no one can take away from you.) I just died with pride.
Also amazing is the relationship between her and Rajaji. Here is a man who is comfortable with his masculinity. Who feels that she is a breath of fresh air, and he must let her fly. He indulges her in books, art, culture, horse-riding and sword-fighting. He does not see her only as an object of desire who must be tamed, much as he desires her, and makes her feel like a woman. In fact, he is the one who makes her promise that she will be that Manu who used to fly, and fight the patriarchy and the British, when he could see his end is near. Such a beautiful relationship this must be! At least we can imagine it so, right, Kangana?
The fag end of the movie has some brilliant fight sequences by Kangana. She is strong and powerful and beautiful. It does get a bit gory at times, I did look at my daughters a couple of times to see if they were scared. They weren’t. In fact the 4 year old totally loved Jhansi ki Rani because she is so strong. That is a side-effect I am willing to live with. I guess when something is real, it connects with the larger audiences – young and old, male and female, irrespective of caste, creed, religion and other biases.
The movie also shows that the woman was betrayed by her closest ones. Ones she trusted, otherwise she would’ve been instrumental in bringing the change much sooner. But then, it is always lonely at the top. Another side-effect any strong woman, or man for that matter, must be ready to live with. The last battle where Rani was badly injured, and finally succumbed to her injuries is beautifully shot. The anger which she ignited in Field Marshal, Hugh Rose due to his humiliation on the battle ground, and his subsequent desire to kill her in the most gory manner. The fact that she did not let him have this pleasure, and chose to let fire consume her instead. If this scene cannot move you, nothing can.
And Kangana is the original rebel girl of Bollywood right now. I love her, and her choices. She came from a small town, with a funny Hindi accent and did not speak English well (the language that’s ‘very important’ to get acceptance in our high-handed Indian society, ironical isn’t it? We are still ruled by the British. They are having the last laugh after all. Ghulami runs deep.) She had no connections, no family money to back her up, and was quintessentially not typically beautiful in ‘Indian’ sense. But God, she is beautiful. If anyone has doubts, watch this movie. Here is a woman who has realised her own. And she is very, very attractive. I think wrong has been done to her. I wish she gets her justice soon, honestly. Coz otherwise life won’t be fair. And life must be fair to good, hardworking people. How will mankind have the faith otherwise?
A must watch. Meanwhile, Jhansi Fort, I am coming back to visit.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: a still from the movie Manikarnika.
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My house-help asked excitedly, “I am going for wedding. Can you let me wear your red & black saree? To be honest I was stumped for a moment; I didn’t know what to say but I still said yes.
I lent a gorgeous saree to my house-help for a wedding in her family. Soon I stated getting questions if I would wear that saree again or if I was okay to be seen wearing the same saree my house-help was wearing?
We are all so conditioned to give our used clothes to our house-helps but are we okay to wear the clothes they were wearing?
A few days ago she came excitedly to me, “I am going for a family wedding. I want to wear your red & black saree, Ill wash and give it to you after the function. Please can you let me wear it?”
Beauty is a very clever, very evil capitalist tool. It traps those who have it into hanging on to it for dear life and those who don't into mutilating, torturing themselves to achieve the unachievable.
I recently wrote a piece about MP Shashi Tharoor’s tweet in which he had shared a pic with six women parliamentarians tagging them and saying “Who says the Lok Sabha isn’t an attractive place to work?”
There was a rash of comments on the post shared on Instagram, which ranged from “chill, it’s just a compliment” and “stop overthinking compliments”, to (worried) men lamenting about “these feminazi”.
Here’s my answer to all those comments.
Today, I heard a comment that "Rani Lakshmi Bai was inauspicious, she lost her baby, her husband, and finally her kingdom." What, really?! Haven't you read any history?
Today, I heard a comment that “Rani Lakshmi Bai was inauspicious, she lost her baby, her husband, and finally her kingdom.” What, really?! Haven’t you read any history?
Chamak uthi san sattavan mein, woh talwar purani thi,
harbolon ke munh humne suni kahani thi,
Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi
Does anyone remember these lines about the brave Queen Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, who fought against the British rule when her own kingdom was usurped under the Doctrine of Lapse and she dies fighting? I am sure you all must at least have seen Manikarnika. Kangana Ranaut portrayed her character in the movie.
We know of Rani Lakshmi Bai's bravery tales, but we are not aware of Jhalkari Bai, the Dalit woman who helped her throughout, and fought right next to her in the uprising of 1857.
We know of Rani Lakshmi Bai’s bravery tales, but we are not aware of Jhalkari Bai, the Dalit woman who helped her throughout, and fought right next to her in the uprising of 1857.
The stories of our female warriors are rarely told. Can we think of any other female warriors other than Rani Laxmibai and Sultana Razia? Through the ages, women have shown great abilities, playing a crucial role in history. But we rarely hear about them. Isn’t it time we changed that?
Here is a name that is quite disguised in the pages of history. Commander of Rani Laxmibai’s Army, Jhalkari Bai. The attention that is paid to Kings and Queens is appropriate, but even majesty can show courage only when they have good support systems. Jhalkari Bai was that support system to the Queen.