Language : Hindi | Running Time : 146 Minutes | Director : Vikas Bahl
A girl, after being dumped by her fiance, goes on her honeymoon. She goes to Paris and then Amsterdam, her favourite and his favourite city in the world. Her name is Rani and she is a girl from Rajouri Garden, Delhi. Her name is Rani. She tells mightily pleased that it means Queen. Halfway through the movie, she is the queen of our hearts. At the end of it, she holds all the keys to us. She is Kangana Ranaut. And boy, has she finally found herself in the industry.
I start off differently than I usual do because this film is one of those rare films that made me smile throughout, making me fall in love with it more and more as each scene progressed, even when the scene was just a guileless young woman, wearing a green or pink sweater and smiling without thinking and just being there, resplendent in all the glory of being a woman. This is not an everyday film and Kangana Ranaut isn’t your every other actor. This is a story of a girl who finds herself through travel. There’s a great quote by Anthony Bourdain,
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
Many things in life click when you travel. Director Vikas Bahl and his crew of writers – Parveez Shaikh and Chaitally Parmar develop a script that best examplifies this quote. There’s a journey where a girl rediscovers herself, grows wings and becomes a person everyone falls in love with. From the girl who has her brother escorting her on a date to a girl who not only shares a room with 3 men from different countries but shares her first kiss with a Italian is simply a marvelous transformation. The kiss isn’t the most important thing here. It deserves a mention only to highlight that she has become her own woman. It is something I’ll mention again later.
Rani(Kangana Ranaut) is a 24 year old girl who is about to get married. A day before her wedding she gets dumped by her fiancé, Vijay (Rajkumar Rao) because he realises that their status doesn’t match and she is sitting there talking about how beautiful the arrangements are for her manage; the perfectness of the lettering in gold which reads “Rani Weds Vijay”. She is devastated and closes herself in a room. He removes the mehendi that’s fallen on the table when she was wringing her hands when breaking down. She is the kind of girl who will eat a laddoo after locking herself for a day because it is the closest eatable she can get to and she will fly alone, away from the people surrounding her, to get away from the gloom. She’ll go on her honeymoon. Alone. For her mother, if her brother Chintu accompanied her, she’d feel better. For her father, her happiness is what matters. For her, her father’s approval. Brought up in a conservative mithaiwala family, she hasn’t done anything ridiculous or what the normal ones would call fun, as she herself explains. She has been the good girl all her life. She doesn’t understand why she got dumped by her fiancé. In one of her drunken escapades in Paris, she tells her story to Vijatalakshmi(a smoking hot Lisa Haydon). More than anything, she doesn’t understand what the difference in status meant. It is the understanding of a girl who hasn’t traveled alone or allowed to be anything but what others have made her to be.
In Paris, Vijayalakshmi becomes her guardian and also a catalyst in unlocking the cage. Here, Rani is like a bird released from a cage, a cage she never realised being trapped in. The best and very important thing we should notice is the openness to learn and accept things which Rani shows throughout the film. She doesn’t belittle the culture she comes from or the culture she observes in Paris and neither does she embrace it fully. She learns to adapt, be herself and crawls her way deep into our hearts with her sense of humor or the lack thereof and her unworldly charm. When she meets the people her mother has asked her to, she calls them emotional. A drama queen herself, it is a clear indication of how being in Paris has helped her discover herself.
The humor here is mostly at the expense of things that Rani does wrong. The movie doesn’t make her an imbecile. It is just that her self discovery involves her giving us a look at how she grew up and at times, the laughter is uncontrollable. The scenes where Rajkumar Rao tries to woo her are especially funny and though his character is a pretty bad one, one of the few tiny little things that are off place in this film, he brings forth a Shah Rukh Khan (with an Amitabh Bachchan name) kind of bumbling persona to the romance and there’s both nostalgia and hilarity. For a movie which has a highly refreshing and unconventional lead, the male stereotype and burgeoning pressure comes across as harsh and silly. But without his domineering personality, Rani’s self discovery wouldn’t have become so empowering. Still, there will be some grouse and that is because of how much Rani comes to mean to each one of us individually.
If Paris gives her confidence, then Amsterdam is where she becomes a new Rani. Vijayalakshmi makes her realise that she is more than the obedient child she is brought up to be. In Amsterdam, she has three people of different ethnicity help her become what she was always capable of being. This is the other misstep. Were people from three different cultural backgrounds necessary? A white man, a black man and a Japanese, one who is more irritating than any other Japanese I’ve watched on screen. They do create some fun moments, especially when they take her to a sex shop and she mistakes a dildo for a body massager. She shares her first kiss with a Italian chef, woh bhi lip to lip wala. The lip to lip kiss phrase that she uses in Paris is the kind of cutesy thing that Rani is capable of.
In Amsterdam, living with three men in a room after throwing a fit when she comes to learn that there are no single rooms available and figuring to have them work around her and learning from them is maybe a bot stretched for some people but I thoroughly loved the way Kangana Ranaut goes about it. The time when she drives a car on her own is maybe one of the most important moments of her life. Rani’s discovery here is that she learns to be independent, when she learns to show off her cooking and the smile that her hot-selling golguppas bring to her face. This is the moment which enriches Amsterdam to us. The moment where she becomes more than the shackles of domesticity that Vijay had planned for her.
These growing up episodes are highlighted by the little moments of control that Vijay had on her life. The blind obedience that she has embraced in the beginning no longer defines who she is. Her longings, her aches and her desires are now what define her. I’d like to bring Anthony Bourdain’s quote to point out how much the travel has affected her. She has learnt from the people she has met and through their experiences and her own, grown more than either Vijay, a man closed to race and prone to possessiveness and jealousy has failed to. Her experiences have transformed her into a beautiful woman from a childlike woman, without losing the heart that makes her Rani. There can be no bigger praise for coming of age.
Queen is the kind of coming of age that an adult needs. Vikramaditya Motwane‘s Udaan was a fine coming of age for a teenager entering adulthood. There we have a child escaping a father’s hold. Here we have a adult woman escaping from herself to find herself. She is not necessarily running away from Vijay but the idea of she could have been to become what she desires to be. Like Ayan Mukerji has been creating variations of Ranbir Kapoor‘s Sid with Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Vikas Bahl could create variations of Rani and treat us to Indian style coming of age over the years. The Udaan comparison seems misplaced but I bring that up to identify the films that have done coming of age brilliantly. This year we have had Highway and Queen that have seen a woman bloom and come of age. I’ve fallen in love with both the female characters. I’d like to see more of Rani, after she grows up by 5 more years. After she grows up by 10 more. Rani is like a love child, a flower girl you don’t want to lose. That’s how beautiful Kangana Ranaut makes her to be.
It has been a few years now since Kangana Ranaut has been on the fringes of stardom. She has been very good in the roles she has performed but she has always been seen as an outsider, trying to break into an uninvited party. In a role she helped co-write, Kangana Ranaut has just rammed in full throttle and announced herself as a leading lady you can’t ignore. Asha Bhosle‘s “Hungama Ho Gaya” is remixed for a Parisian night club. Kangana Ranaut is remixing Meg Ryan desi style with Queen. I am in love with Kangana Ranaut, her Rani, Vikas Bahl and his team and this wonderful movie which entertained me throughout and left me with a smile even as I finish writing this so called review. It is more a love ode to a lovely film, which has few missteps that don’t get in my way as I continue to be awash by the hungama that has been created. I lived with Rani, I’d like to believe her experiences helped me grow too. This is beautiful stuff.