This appeared in Mumbai Mirror...
Happy Women’s Day, readers!
After the longest time, I am uttering these words ( Happy Women’s Day!) without feeling and sounding phony to myself. The reason may appear idiotic and frivolous, but it happens to be true! I watched ‘Queen’… and something inside me automatically clicked on the ‘Like’ button of my heart and mind. ‘Queen’ is certainly not the greatest movie ever made. But there was something incredibly true and moving about it. None of this would have worked had it not been for Kangana Ranaut’s heartbreakingly sincere performance in the title role. The movie’s bagged its well deserved stars from reviewers. But I am not at all sure those favourable reviews will convert into impressive box office numbers. After all, it’s a woman centric film, without a six pack actor (what a relief!) to attract the masses. The only ‘hero’ is Kangana – and what a superhero she is! I really cannot think of any other actress who would have accepted a role that required her to bare her soul, not her body, and face the camera sans make- up or fancy costumes. Given Kangana’s fashionista image, this is a role that breaks several moulds and fantasies in one go. Deglamourised , almost plain, and clad in ill-fitting salwar- kameezes, Kangana lives her character ( Rani Mehra from Rajouri) and makes us live her life with her.
It is a genuinely feminist film, without being self-consciously so. Which is another reason why it may alienate a section of the audience hooked on testosterone-driven drivel that passes for entertainment ( and, unfortunately, also makes big bucks) .‘Queen’ is a truly modern movie that takes an unblinking look at contemporary social realities. Without giving the plot away, in brief, ‘Queen’ is about a trusting, in love, naïve, suburban girl, who gets dumped two days before the wedding (during her mehendi celebrations) . Her boorish London -returned fiancé ( well played by Rajkummar Rao) casually breaks off the shaadi in a coffee shop (“ A lot can happen over coffee’’ – the irony is not missed by anybody), saying her modest status no longer matches his newly acquired grand one! Considering, it is he who has relentlessly pursued her through college,the abrupt rejection comes as a big, big blow to Rani (“Queen”). What happens next, is so unexpected and uplifting, you have to watch the film and find out for yourself.
The message is simple : there is a ‘queen’ inside every woman. If only she can locate her! Sometimes, it takes a really hard knock for that discovery to take place. But once a woman finds her inner queen, there is no stopping her! We see Kangana’s transformation taking place subtly and gradually. In cinematic terms, all the devices used to showcase this change, work very well, without shouting even once. All the other characters of this splendid ensemble cast, are credible and terrific – yes, the Russian( intense), the Japanese( amazing!), and the Italian ( yummy!). But it is Lisa Haydon playing ‘Vijay’, who not just holds her own, but also manages to steal the show from Kangana in a few superbly scripted scenes. Apart from Lisa, grandma Biji and baby brother Chhotu , along with Kangana’s screen parents (“ Call me Ashu…” says her mithai shop owner father to ‘Vijay’s’ cleavage, over Skype ) all contribute equally to creating an invigorating environment, a fresh space, for a movie that does indeed speak a new language and instinctively taps into today’s myriad small town ‘queens’ desperately looking for an escape and eventual redemption from the tyranny of their narrow existence.
As for Kangana, I have been a die-hard supporter and fan of this spunky, individualistic actress from the time I watched her debut film. Here’s a Bollywood girl who has consistently defied the stereotype and written her own rules to establish herself in a terrifyingly competitive business. She doesn’t need to have ‘Feminist’ tattooed across her forehead. Her life speaks for itself. It is girls like Kangana and Parineeti Chopra ( ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ was a real gem) who will go down as game changers some day. And let’s also hand it to their brave, risk taking directors and producers who have gone ahead and made these delightful films which wake us up to say, “Hello! India has changed. Women have changed….”
8th of March no longer seems ridiculous! Have a wonderful time at the movies, folks!