Manikarnika movie review: Kangana Ranaut is impressive, the rest is pretty bland
Director: Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Ankita Lokhande, Zeeshan Ayyub, Atul Kulkarni, Jisshu Sengupta, Suresh Oberoi and Danny Denzongpa.
Kangana Ranaut is back with her latest film 'Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi', in which the National Award winning actor plays the titular role. Considering the many, well-publicised troubles this film has been through over the years – Actor Zeeshan Ayyub stepped in to replace the departed Sonu Sood, Kangana herself stepped in to replace the departed Krish – it is some achievement that it finally got made at all.
Manikarnika shows us the personal journey of Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi (played by Ranaut), who is known as dedicated queen and a fierce freedom-fighter.
What keeps Manikarnika afloat is the mesmerizing work of its star. Kangana Ranaut is obviously the big draw here, with a believable performance as both the loyal Queen and a feisty rebel. Kangana absolutely owns this 'one-woman show'. Seconds after the film starts, Kangana becomes the character and rules every scene of the film. As a performer, Kangana finds plenty of emotional depth; her voice, her physical presence, her ability to do complex action scenes is nothing short of jaw-dropping. However, the conventionally structured film never goes beyond a surface look at her bravery.
Kangana Ranaut, as Rani Laxmi Bai presides with grand humanity, over a film that is pretty much in shambles. Besides Kangana, most performers range from hammy to awkward. The rest of the characters just come and go making the film only center on a lead performance more than anything else, even the story. This makes it at times fascinating and at times plain redundant as the audience is quite familiar with the historical events it depicts and the film doesn't really add anything new to what everyone already knows or imagines.
The film is a real pandering 'biopic', completely Bollywood-ised, overblown and simplified. It's terrified to let a moment settle in case the film loses our attention. And that superficiality is its main problem. Since the film credits two different directors, it is difficult to say how much one has contributed to the film but, the direction is most confident with the emotional scenes and subsequently these are the best and most poignant parts of the film.
This is a grand, arresting subject but unfortunately, the overall direction is simply not quite up to the mark. A predictable story makes the film weaker by the usual treatment of telling a story of the feisty warrior queen. A few striking scenes don't unite for a satisfying whole.
The action scenes are all very well shot but everything else is subpar, even the special effects are nothing special. Prasoon Joshi's dialogues are over-dramatic and aren’t particularly memorable.
At the end, Manikarnika is a misguided and typical effort bolstered by only a few noteworthy aspects. Still, Kangana Ranaut remains the Queen.
Watch Manikarnika trailer here: