There is an emotional connect especially in North India with the Queen of Jhansi as is with Shivaji, Queen Ahalya, Beghum Hazrat Mehal and many other. They are almost worshiped not only because they fought Britishers bravely, but also because they struck a chord with the common people, were good administrators and fought bravely to defend their people.
Theirs was patriotism, Desh-bhakti not nationalism. the word ‘rashtra’ came much later in practice than ‘desh’. While making films on patriotism, our filmmakers either fail to differentiate between the two or just ignore it out of their love for sheer populism.
While watching Manikarnika this question keeps haunting-- how long will we keep harping on the same old sentiment of patriotism? It’s high time we rediscovered and redefined it. Back in 2006, Rang De Basanti was a courageous and successful attempt at it.
Manikarnika can just be called a period drama. There are so many historical facts available about the dynamic queen of Jhansi and so much has been written on her that even a piece of fiction can’t be wrong about some of the details.
So much is the new-found love for saffron in our Hindi film industry that the queen who wore white paithani saari after her husband’s death is shown wearing the saffron. She never wore any jewellery except a pearl necklace. But she is shown wearing jewellery after her husband’s death. She never captured Gwalior. There was no time for that in her struggle with the Britishers. And most significantly, the last sequence depicting her death is rather superfluous. She is shown burning in the fire and turning into the symbol of ‘Aum’. It is a well-known fact that she fought the Britishers with her son on her back, was wounded grievously, retreated to a hermit’s hut and requested him to perform her last rites as she did not want the Britishers to even touch her body.
This sounds more dramatic, but the filmmaker was more interested in showing her as a symbol of ‘Aum’! What irritates more is that our learned filmmakers use portions of those Sanskrit prayers for which there are certain rules to be followed. The worst victim of this is Ravan krit Shiv Stuti. A person who knows Sanskrit a little knows this too that along with Gayatri Mantra, there is a certain sanctity attached to some of the prayers and this stuti is one of them. This half-baked knowledge of so-called promoters of our culture is indeed frustrating.
Some things though are redeeming--the controlled dialogues and amazing battle sequences. Kangana Ranaut has really worked hard for the fighting scenes, but she should rather work more on her pronunciation. The words like ‘Khushi’, ‘khoon’ ‘hriday’ are not spoken properly. What happened to the usage of ‘nukta’ in Hindi dialogues, I wonder. Particularly in a period drama of the time when Persian dominated Hindi, the protagonist should have been more fluent and correct in speaking such simple words.
Well, all said and done, if you want to enjoy the feeling of not-so-subtle patriotism on Republic Day, you can go and watch it but well, it doesn’t do justice to the Jhansi ki Rani whom we so admire.