By Liz Lopez
History is documented about the British rule of India, under the leadership of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, by the East India Company. In the mid -1800s, The Jhansi State had been operating free of British rule with Gangadhar Rao Newalkar as the Maharaja (king) of Jhansi. His second wife was a teenager, born Manikarnika, the daughter to an advisor in the court of a chief minister, the Peshwa. Her married name as a Queen became Lakshmibai. As a young girl prior to the marriage, she had a wealth of skills: martial arts, sword-fighting, and horse-riding. As Rani, (the queen) kept up her skills using the palace weapons, aside from drilling and training a regiment of women. Some of these women were guards of the women’s quarters and the queen was ahead of her time as the one to train them. “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” tells the story of the young woman who became Queen, and soon after, a widow who was determined to keep the people of her territory free of British rule. The story itself is very good to learn about, but as a script co- written in a simple method by director Swati Bhise and Devika Bhise (who is also the protagonist), it could use some help to keep it from being predictable.
The writers are certainly spot on for the creation of many of the British characters that the audience can almost instantly love to hate. The principal character who falls into this category is the British leader, Sir Robert Hamilton (Nathaniel Parker), wants to wipe the territory clean of the residents, including a public death for the queen and her followers. Parker’s performance is exceedingly good as this misogynistic racist who thinks the residents of India are savages. It is quite evident that even some of the other British and/or British troops tolerated him only as much as they had to. The writers fully captured how women around the world, even as ruling queens, are not respected by men. Queen Victoria’s orders are all but ignored by the men who had power.
Devika’s performance as a strong queen and leader in this film is to be commended. She excelled in the very physical scenes riding and fighting, utilizing a sword, and is entertaining and impressive. I look forward to seeing her in more performances in the future.
Much of the film covers the period of 1857 and 1858 leading to the final battle over Jhansi. The Rani (Devika Bhise), a British officer, Ellis (Ben Lamb), Queen Victoria (Jodhi May) believe a peaceful resolution is possible instead of war. Sir Robert Hamilton is the thorn that pushes the weakened British troops to proceed despite their illness and a lack of rations. The Rani has her soldiers ready to give their life for their families and country.
Angelica Monica Bhowmick and Riyaz Ali Merchant, production and costume design, deserve recognition for their work, especially the costumes for the period.
The Rani has been called an “Indian Joan of Ark” in some literature available online and it is possible an epic film can be created to bring more recognition to this much deserving leader. “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” should be viewed to learn more about her and the independence movement in 1800s India. Her fight for freedom arrives in theaters November 15th.
Source: Roadside Attractions