Film Review: 'Queen'
Opens: 7 March 2014
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon, Vinay Singh, Bokyo Mish, Jeffrey Ho, Joseph Guitobh, Canadea Lopez Marco.
Director: Vikas Bahl
Producers: Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane
2014 is about girl power it seems. Think about it. Barely three months in and we’ve had a host of women oriented films (Highway, Dedh Ishqiya, Hasee Toh Phasee), all of which have had powerful parts for their leading ladies — a welcome change no doubt. Vikas Bahl’s Queen too is one such film. It has a strong part for its lead (Kangana Ranaut in a stellar, career defining performance), and refreshingly, all the male characters in the film play second fiddle to her. Is Hindi cinema finally getting over its chauvinistic attitude and coming of age?
Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s best to get out of the way, the fact that I’ve never really rated Kangana as an actress. There's something incredibly annoying about her and bar Gangster and maybe to a lesser extent Krrish 3, she hasn’t really won me over with anything she’s done. Her national award performance in Fashion was grossly overrated, and I felt she was quite hammy in Tanu Weds Manu too. So there. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I was very pleasantly surprised with how she won me over with her acting chops in Queen. It’s a film that rests solely on her slender shoulders, and she nails the part, occasionally even rising above some of the trite scenes she's given to enact.
In Queen, Kangana plays Rani a typical sheltered ‘behenji’ kinda character born and brought up in a conservative, Punjabi family residing in Rajouri, New Delhi. Her life turns upside down when her smarmy fiancé Vijay (Rajkummar Rao), calls of their wedding at the nth hour citing a flimsy excuse, and thereby prompting a jilted and irrational Rani to take matters into her own hands and go for her meticulously pre-planned honeymoon — solo. How her subsequent travels across Europe, alter the course of her life entirely forms the crux of the story.
I was pleasantly surprised with Queen. It’s a charming and heartwarming little film, with some genuinely hilarious and touching moments in equal measure, with sincere performances from its virtually unknown cast. A fair chunk of it will remind you of Sridevi’s English Vinglish which broached a similar topic, but complete credit to Kangana for adding her own little nuances and touches to her character here and making it her own. Queen will undoubtedly go on to be a landmark performance in her career irrespective of its outcome at the box office, and should finally make audiences and filmmakers alike sit up and take notice of her untapped talent.
Lending her able support are Rajkummar Rao (in a rather thankless part), and Bokyo Mish, Jeffrey Ho, Joseph Guitobh, and Canadea Lopez Marco, who play Rani’s immensely likeable travel companions. Lisa Haydon is okay as a tarty waitress with a heart of gold, even if a little contrived.
I do have a major grouse to pick with our scriptwriters though. Why is it that foreign Indians are always presented as having no values, questionable morals and having no means to get through the so called “recession” apart from resorting to prostitution? It’s a stereotype and its beginning to really grate. And on a similar note, why can’t they get authentic foreign actors to play parts, so that if nothing else, they can at least get the accents right. Some of the French in this film is highly dubious and sounds anything but Parisian.
These minor niggles aside, Queen is eminently watchable and an impressive solo debut by director Bahl (Chillar Party was co-directed with Nitesh Tiwari). He’s peppered it with some interesting touches and characters, and despite a few glaring flaws (there are stereotypes a plenty), made an endearing film with heart and one that inevitably wins you over as it progresses. I especially liked the innovative end credits sequence, which recites Rani’s travel experiences through her Facebook timeline. Amit Trivedi’s music adds to its proceedings, and goes with the mood of the film, even if it doesn’t really stay with you after it's over.
I’m going with four stars for Queen. It’s a surprisingly fun, coming of age film and gets an entire star for Kangana’s bravura performance alone. I don’t think I can imagine anyone that would have pulled off the part as well as she did — take a bow Ms Ranaut. I am finally a fan.
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