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Movie review Queen: Film a ‘golgappa’ stuffed with culture-shulture, Kangana powerful

DC | SUPARNA SHARMA
Published Mar 7, 2014, 6:53 pm IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
‘Queen’ challenges nothing, only happy in its skin
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon, Mish Boyko, Jeffery Ho, Guitobh Joseph, Marco Canadea
 
Direction: Vikas Bahl
 
Rating: ***
 
WE all have a moment in our lives that makes us change course. See light. Take a decision. And if there isn’t one, we like to create a few, in our heads. One or more, these are moments when we grabbed a fistful of earth, real or metaphoric, and said, "God is my witness and I shall never go hungry again... be pushed out of a train... a relationship, a job, a house... let my mother be molested at a gas station..."
 
These scarring moments, big or small, mark the lowest points in our lives, and we promise ourselves never to be back there. Something shifts, and there is a you before that moment, and a new you after.
 
Queen, written and directed by debutant Vikas Bahl, is the story of a simple koop mandook -- frog in the well – who is shot out of its cool, shaded abode and for a while keeps thinking of ways to slide back in, finding the glare, largeness, strangeness of the outside world too scary. But then it meets other frogs and begins to take one step, and then another, and another...
 
The koop mandook here is Rani (Kangana Ranaut) and the rude catapult is Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). The film opens when their wedding is underway, in Rajuori Garden, Delhi. This is Jai Mata Di territory and we were in this neighbourhood a few years ago, with Band Baaja Baaraat.
 
It’s mehndi nite. Dadi is dancing, doing the Cocktail step, and Rani, with her hands covered in mehndi, is sharing her inner most thoughts with us -- about Facebook updates, her first night, about life with Vijay.
 
We are just getting ready to relax and have some fun when the film takes us on an emotional roller-coaster -- from a happy-shappy, dancing family, this turns into a house in mourning. Both these high and low moments are marked by songs – nice ones, by Amit Trivedi.
 
Vijay breaks the marriage. We don’t really know why, but we can deduce -- he’s been living in London and, upon return to his own world, finds it dirty, pendu, and a reminder of who he was and may still be. Rani doesn’t seem to fit in with his plans of who he wants to be.
 
Our loathing for Vijay is deep. It becomes complete when, through flashbacks, we see how relentlessly he pursued Rani — the simple daughter of a halwai and a home science student -- calling her his “Queen”. And then we see how eagerly Rani was planning her honeymoon and closing her life’s account here.
 
But now Rani has locked herself up, is refusing to come out when Dadi talks of a Faisal she knew before Partition, of life being a sum of all our experiences -- good, bad, and the in-between. 
 
And then Rani asks, could I go on my honeymoon?
 
Rani lands up in Paris, alone, with a large, unwieldy suitcase. She’s been abruptly jerked out from her dream of double everything to being single again. She has to learn to adjust her gaze on the world -- to see it herself, not through or with another. And she has to adjust to the world’s gaze, which is not looking for her “missing person”, but is looking at her.
 
In this journey Rani is helped by Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon), a single mother who binges on life. She’s like a drunk fairy godmother -- a large, warm hug, with a bottle in one hand while the other pinches a rotund behind. 
 
The first stop on Rani's road to happiness and catharsis is the bar.
 
It’s a joy to watch Rani come out of her shell, reclaim life for herself. She’s partly predictable, but also surprises us when the bhenji refuses to be a bechari. Rani is scared but tough, out of her depth but happy to try new things, on her terms. She opens up, slowly, realises she too is someone.
 
Till interval this coming of age trip in Paris is great. On return we expect the film to go up a notch. To twist. Or go deeper. It just moves from Paris to Amsterdam, and what one woman accomplished in Paris, in Amsterdam it takes four men to do – a French, a Japanese, a Russian and the cutest Italian who takes his food very seriously. 

It’s a scant screenplay now, a sort of 12-step programme to reclaiming life/self-discovery. So we get more of the same, with different people. Rani finds people who connect with her inner gorgeous Indian girl and help and watch her emerge from her shell. As Rani’s mehndi wears off, her face acquires a glow and her step a happy spring. 
 
Flashbacks of her cloistered life before, how she only did what others told her to, try to justify the film's slow pace. We get that, but we would have liked something more. 
 
Suddenly, her previous life tugs at her, wants her back, in the well. As it was. You fear. Wonder.
 
Queen is a well-meaning, well-mannered film that's funny and packs in small, elevating, but palatable messages. It challenges nothing. It just shows an Indian girl slowly, gently renegotiating life while remaining true to who she is. The experience changing her from a nodding doll to a girl who has learnt what she doesn’t want. From there she’ll begin to figure out what she wants. 
 
The film keeps bursting with potential, for being greater than it is. But that’s not who or what the film wants to be. It is quite happy in its skin, content to be homely and sweet and, often, very funny.
 
I would have liked a little more meaningful conversation with Rani. We don’t get them. Yet I’m very happy to have made her acquaintance.
 
Queen's strength lies in the lovely, small touches and dialogue that bring its middle class, Punjabi world alive. Rani and her little, fat brother Chintu play a big role in this. 
 
Many scenes, including the courtship ones, and later, when she's travelling, and the film’s dialogue especially, are delightful, flavourful bites. Like gol-gappas, they are stuffed with culture-shulture and spiced with our quirks and idiosyncrasies, ones that are absurd and make us laugh when we see them play out on screen.
 
Kangana Ranaut, a wisp of a girl, has always been a powerful performer. She's an actress with lots of talent who has taken on roles that are different, challenging and out of the league of most Bollywood actresses fighting the number game. And here too she has made a bold choice. And a difficult one as well. 
 
Kangana's Rani is a Dilli ki bhenji who speaks Delhi’s own brand of Punjabi-English and mildly disapproves of drinking and sleeping around, but is not judgmental.
 
Though Ms Ranaut is in Sridevi territory here, and the film, with its foreign travel, firangi friends, desi food is English Vinglish before the nuptials, Kangana Ranaut stays true to the character she is playing, as it has been etched out, never once over-reaching and going for histrionics. She doesn’t try to grab you. She just tugs at you, with her subtle, nuanced performance. She is in complete control and is very good. 
 
I always look forward to watching Rajkummar Rao. He is one of the few actors who does Bollywood proud. And with Queen, he adds another, small, feather to his hat.

Other reviews: 

Queen movie review

Kangana Ranaut makes Queen worth a watch 


 
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