Kangana Ranaut makes a smartly-written film triumphantly her own
Kangana Ranaut gets a ‘dialogue writer’ credit in Vikas Bahl’s Queen along with the professional writer Anvita Dutt, and that’s not the only reason the actor triumphantly makes the film her own. She has a smartly rounded screenplay to work with—Bahl, Chaitally Parmar and Parveez Sheikh make Rani, the lead character Ranaut plays, an unmitigated middle-class hero. She has no oomph, vanity or superpowers, sacrificial or otherwise—a wonderful rarity in our mainstream cinema.
How does the goofy, naive girl, daughter of a successful halwai in Delhi, reach that uplifting moment of self-discovery and reclaim her own life?
Rani’s fiance Vijay (Rajkumar Rao) pulls out of the marriage two days before the wedding day. So far, Rani’s dreams have revolved around the Delhi boy who belongs to the same milieu as hers, but has learnt to say “Bro I’ll call you later" after a successful work stint in London.
As she braves the devastation of thwarted domesticity, Rani decides to take the honeymoon trip to Paris and Amsterdam on her own. In that short time, she befriends people from all over the world—often with a lot of trepidation. Once she even reluctantly lands up inside a sex worker’s neon-lit alcove.
It is a story with a predictable curve: misadventure, adventure, a few uplifting moments and a life-altering decision which becomes easy to make by the end.
Some of the characters Rani meets are largely cardboard. Lisa Haydon’s sexy and spirited Vijaylakshmi, the friend Rani is in dire need of, is an exception. Rajkumar Rao plays the entitled chauvinist in the garb of cloying civility to the hilt—hating him is easy. Rani’s ingenue rings untrue in parts. How could a Delhi girl, for example, be frightened of crossing a busy street? In the build-up to the climax, some of the scenes are terribly contrived. But the routine melodrama of these scenes does not weaken the film’s earthy and crackling humour and a fond understanding of the Delhi milieu the director etches.
In the end, Rani’s transformation sits easy on her. Nothing has really changed, and yet she is no longer the same servile girl.
In Ranaut’s career, this could be the turnaround role. It is obvious from her easy immersiveness, and at the same time, her enthrallment by the character, that the actor knows this girl well. She has inhabited Rani without any hint of fear or awkwardness.
Queen is an ebullient, enjoyable film, its feminist points squirelled into the film’s margins. It’s the breeziest film you can imagine about a person’s transformation in a short span, and Ranuat is winningly responsible for it.