Kangana 'Queen' Ranaut
I watched ‘Queen’ today and liked it.
Should a woman decide to go back to a man who has betrayed her, taken her for granted, conducted himself with utter insensitivity towards her, and remains unreformed in his tradition-bound groove of male superiority even though the currents of life have carried her to new shores of independence? Kangana Raut, who plays Rani (‘Queen’) in this film by Vikas Bahl, makes the right decision. And it is a decision that is sure to appeal to a lot of educated urban Indian women, who are seeking to make their own choices about the life they want to live.
Kangana Ranaut is the face and the heart of the film. She is a very competent actress. There is no histrionics and no melodrama in her acting (at least in this film, this being the first movie of hers I have seen). She is frail and delicate in her moments of crises. Yet, when life places her in unconventional circumstances, she not only repossesses her dignity and self, but also transforms herself into a strong and independent person ─ one capable of giving the wedding ring back to a man who didn’t know, and didn’t care for, the worth of the woman he had given it to with the promise of marrying her.
I have one grouse about the film. Why should its storyline take a middle-class Indian woman to exotic places in Paris and Amsterdam in order to depict her transformation? Is it because it is difficult to find glamorous but authentic situations within Indian society where a woman like Rani ─ daughter of an ordinary halwai (owner of a sweetmart) in Delhi’s Rajauri Garden ─ has to grapple with her adversities and painfully gain her independence?
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans used to find India exotic. Today, India’s rich and upwardly mobile middle classes find the West (especially Western Europe) exotic. Bollywood feeds their desire by weaving storylines that connect them to the West, visually, socially and sensuously.
This may be a compulsion or a lure of the movie market. However, it does make the plots of our movies less authentic, and their message less rooted in Indian realities. ‘Queen’ is no exception ─ although it is less of an exception than those Hindi movies where the song-and-dance scenes simply provide the pretext for going to Europe.
In spite of this shortcoming, ‘Queen’ is a good film. Watch it for Kangana Ranaut. Watch it for the character of a strong and dignified young Indian woman that she plays.
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