Female led films are apparently a difficult concept, not just for Bollywood, but Hollywood as well. ‘Queen’ is a beautifully made smash-mouth rebuttal to every poorly written female roles that occupy space in the majority of Bollywood films. The emotional growth of a character when opened up to experiences of life is the heart and soul of ‘Queen‘. The film is able to depict a woman that doesn’t define herself based on the story requirements of a male character, nor is her growth treated as a plotpoint of the story, but rather is the story. Read on for my Full Review of one of the best films of 2014, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Kangana Ranaut plays Rani, a simple local city girl who is set to live the most exciting day of her life as she prepares for her wedding. On the eve of however, she is rejected by her London residing fiancee, citing the clichéd, it’s-not-you-it’s-me routine. With her life shattered and social status marred, Rani sets off on her honeymoon to Paris by herself to attempt to deal with, what she considers to be the biggest tragedy of anyone’s life, even comparing it to an uncle who had Cancer during a hilarious drunken montage. The story centers around Rani’s experiences in Europe, outside of the social norm that she’s been raised in, and how that changes her. While the story sounds formualic from a Hollywood perspective, such an endearing story has rarely been done in Bollywood without being condescending or being counter productive to the character.
‘Queen’s heart is equal parts Ranaut’s performance and the director ‘s execution of the screenplay co-written by himself and Parvez Shaikh. (‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan‘) The story never paints Rani as a victim, despite her situation, but rather displays the hyperbolic manner in which she feels about her life initially, gradually changing her perspective as she meets others’ and experiences their highs and lows, putting her own problems in perspective. The interactions that Rani has with others are never too on the nose, but subtly allow her to reflect on her own life, and it all happens in an introspective way while never once being articulated in the film by any characters. This is where ‘Queen’ becomes unlike any other Bollywood movie, allowing character motivation and growth through implied and unspoken plot points that occur organically, instead of forced expository dialogue that talks down to the audience.
Kangana Ranaut shines in this portrayal of Rani, ad libbing her own lines, for which she has even be credited as doing the additional dialogues of the film. This sort of improvisation is apparent as the interaction between Ranaut and other actors are not polished or perfect, but anchored with real silences and awkward pauses with actors at times speaking over each other, causing them to repeat or prephrase lines more than once. ‘Queen’ boasts of some quirky supporting characters as well. Lisa Haydon playing Vijaylakshmi, the French-Indian friend who is the polar opposite and refreshingly unapolagetic and bold. There is another South Asian female character in the movie that Rani meets during her adventures played by Sabeeka Imam, who happens to be an exotic dancer in Amsterdam. However, the screenplay never makes a tragedy of her life or profession, which is another feather in the hat of the director and screenwriter.
While Director Vikas Bahl doesn’t have many directorial venture under his belt, he built his career from the ground up, heading UTV Entertainments Indie film division of UTV Spotboy. During his time there he helped produce films such as ‘Dev D’, ‘Lootera’ and other films by Anurag Kashyap, who coincidentally also produced ‘Queen‘ as well. Clearly Bahl has learnt proper story structure and implementation during his experiences as a studio head, and is able to translate that knowledge adequately on screen. Bah crafts the story of ‘Queen’ with enough subtlety and under-the-radar charm that is works wonders.
‘Queen’, in more than a few ways, breaks convention when showcasing powerful female characters, while not boasting about it. A pivotal club scene, meant to be Rani’s first taste of freedom and release, never objectifies the character with sultry dance moves or even reveals the natural beauty that Ranaut herself is; but the makers almost seem to go to extreme lenghts to keep her actions and expressions, raw and awkwardly amatuerish, in a sequence that is both poignant and hilarious at the same time. ‘Queen’ is a very rare example from Bollywood where a movie that features no love story and no melodramatic moments of revelations, is still able to warm the heart and be universally appealing.
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Do you think the success of ‘Queen‘ will change the way female characters are portrayed in Bollywood movies?
Cinephile. Bollywood Connoisseur. Attempted Writer & Editor at http://blankpagebeatdown.com. Host of Split Screen Podcast (@splitscreen_pod). Member of the Twitterati @theshahshahid. Diagnosed w ADH– look a dust bunny!