Queen review: Why Kangana has finally arrived as an actor

Mihir Fadnavis

Mar 07, 2014 13:37:15 IST

Watching the closing credits of the wonderful Queen, there was only one question in my mind and it was for Kangana Ranaut: how does it feel to turn into a well-respected actor?

Directed by Vikas Bahl, Queen is in the English Vinglish zone with many elements that elevate it beyond Gauri Shinde’s enjoyable film about a housewife whose holiday abroad becomes unexpectedly life-changing. Bahl, working on a script co-written by him, Chaitally Parmar and Parveez Sheikh, has produced a lovely little comedy that is rich with subtlety, a rarely-seen quality in mainstream, Hindi, commercial film.

It’s not that Queen doesn’t have its share of genre contrivances, but it’s self-aware, which makes the entire film seem fresh. And it’s got Kangana Ranaut, who after a string of duds finally gets a chance to shine as the real star of a film.

Queen gets everything right, beginning with its unusual plot. Rani, a Punjabi girl from Delhi’s not-so-posh Rajori Gardens, has her heart broken right before her wedding. Instead of moping around, she decides to use her honeymoon bookings and go to Paris. Frightened, a bit dorky, soft spoken, confused and wallowing in self-pity, Rani finds herself in a new world that she thinks is about to kill her.

Ranaut is the perfect heroine for this movie that bends the rules of the old comedy trope of what happens when the small town girl lands up in the big city. In a funny scene early in her ‘honeymoon’, Rani keeps running away from the Eiffel Tower as if it is chasing her everywhere. Later, she downs a few drinks and hilariously wails about her life coming to an end. There are plenty of character moments like these two instances, and they keep the film from falling through the trapdoor of clichés. Plus there’s the meta angle of Ranaut, who grappled with the big city and the bright lights of Bollywood when she came to Mumbai from a small town in Himachal Pradesh, playing Rani's role.

Queen review: Why Kangana has finally arrived as an actor

Kangana Ranaut in Queen. IBN

Queen provides an insightful but un-preachy look at gender disparity in India. Despite the laughs it delivers and its high entertainment value, the feminist angle in Queen is terrific. I can’t remember the last time I saw a mainstream Hindi film that championed women’s empowerment so well. At the root of Rani’s heartbreak is the conventional notion of marriage in India and the social expectations attached to it.

Queen goes after these with gusto, its fierce disapproval costumed in humour. In one scene Rani, when Rani is in Amsterdam, she calls up her childhood friend to talk about the fun she’s having in Europe. “Tum Europe ghoom lo yaar, hum yahan potty dhote rahenge,” says the friend to Rani. There’s even a stripper who mouths lines in elegant Urdu, like “Unhe zara bhi ilm hua ki hum yahaan kaam karte hain, to hum Allah ke pyaare ho jayenge.” It’s subtle evisceration and I loved every second of it.

But don’t let all this heavy stuff get you down because Queen isn’t a soap opera. It’s consistently funny, thanks to Bahl’s direction. That Bahl was the same guy who co-directed the tacky Chillar Party is enough to make heads spin. Queen has understated flourishes, like the end of the scene in which Rani’s fiancé dumps her a day before the wedding. He wipes off the mehendi dust that Rani leaves on the coffee shop’s table. It has obvious directorial triumphs, like fun, long uncut take in which a drunk Rani sings and dances loudly to a Parisian man who resolutely ignores her.

Queen has a nice pop feel to it, beginning with Rani regretting her brother isn’t taking photos on her phone to put up on Facebook and ending with a Facebook timeline to accompany the closing credits. There’s also the excellent soundtrack by Amit Trivedi, which is used sharply in the film. Unusually, Queen is a film that can be enjoyed by both teens and their parents, although probably not together. There’s stuff like Rani fiddling with sex toys, completely oblivious of their actual purpose, and the super hot Lisa Haydon (she plays one of Rani’s European friends) to which a youngster might not want his parents to hear him laugh.

There are a few things that seem out of sync with the film’s otherwise perfect pitch. Rani’s friends and roommates in Amsterdam verge on clichés, particularly the Japanese guy who is tiny and does loud, crazy ‘movie Japanese’ things. A few times, the translation of English lines into Hindi by having a Hindi-speaking character repeat them feels like unnecessary spoon-feeding. Strangely, the film has not one, but two endings and the second one seems shoehorned, especially since the first one hits the perfect note. But all these are just minor complaints, not jarring enough to make the film disappointing.

It’s difficult to imagine any other actress performing Rani’s role as credibly as Ranaut has. Every moment she gives us something to watch: deer-under-headlight stares, awkwardness, shifty-eyed suspicion, physical comedy and a ton of innocence. She comes across as artless and has great comic timing, qualities that make her observations fun rather than artificial. After all these years, this is the breakout role Ranaut so badly needed. Hopefully, Queen will not be her only good movie. Those in small roles are equally stellar, particularly Rajkummar Rao as Rani’s fiancé. Rani’s family is played by a superb set of actors and they’re largely responsible for the film’s authentic Delhi vibe. Major props are due to Anurag Kashyap (who also gets credited as one of the two editors of Queen) and Vikramaditya Motwane for producing this film. It's a tricky tightrope between offbeat and commercial, and it seems like they’re doing it right. We’ll have to wait and see how well Queen does at the box office to know for sure. So, go watch it.

Updated Date: Mar 07, 2014 13:39:33 IST

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