Review: Queen – Kangana Ranaut’s Crowning Glory

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kangana ranaut Main coverRani (Kangana Ranaut) is not unusual. She is a simple girl from Rajouri in Delhi who has simple expectations from life. A student of Home Science, she helps her father at his sweet shop, which is where she first meets Vijay (Rajkummar Rao). Vijay persistently pursues Rani with red ‘ILU’ balloons and staking her in the library until she finally relents.

Rani’s house is bedecked and is she, her hands freshly adorned with henna when Vijay declares that he has had a change of heart. Recently returned from a work trip to London, he now insists of speaking mostly in English and wearing his Aviator sunglasses indoors. Rani is no longer ‘cool’ enough for him, we surmise. Rajkummar Rao nails the role. Even when you don’t want to, you cannot help but like him.

Heartbroken, with her dreams of being married, of her “first night” and of her honeymoon, shattered in a moment, Rani takes the biggest, most independent decision of her life – she will go on her honeymoon alone!

Director Vikas Bahl beautifully sets up this plot point, with the chaos of a wedding house playing out in the background as Rani’s family unconditionally rallies around. Right at this moment you realize the writers of this film have deftly handled their characters and the film’s nuances. There’s a progressive and feisty grandmother, a devoted younger brother, surprisingly unorthodox parents and a girl who is, in fact, willing to take chances. Best of all, the script never resorts to melodrama or histrionics.

There are subtle experiences built in to show Rani’s fears – fidgeting in the plane, having a moment’s doubt just before take off, the inability to cross Parisian roads alone and freaking out as a fish’s eye pops out of its head on her dinner plate.

Kangana Ranaut breathes life into Rani sometimes vulnerable, sometimes showing unexpected spunk (like when she fights off a mugger), and at other times surprisingly uninhibited (look out for the class act as Rani discovers alcohol and works her way through layers of the impact of intoxication).

Coaxing her out of her reticence is Vijaylaxmi, a French-Indian girl who is the antithesis of Rani. This is the first stumbling black. Lisa Haydon is smoking hot but her Vijaylaxmi is so over-the-top that the subtlety thus far built in is traded in for the obvious juxtaposition. The scene with the faux-French speaking NRI family is also gratuitous.

In Amsterdam, Rani befriends three male roommates – Russian, African and Japanese – creating a kind of United Nations of backpackers. And here comes the most disappointing cliche of Queen – the short, comical, excited Japanese man who is the joker in the pack.

I wish some of the attention with which the writers have respectfully presented Rani as an innocent and inexperienced, but not stupid girl, had been applied to the friends she makes on her travels or even the adventures they share. Here’s where the repetition also creeps, there are too many scenes of partying, drinking, chilling and one ridiculous scene of Rani making and selling gol gapas in Amsterdam!

Through even these scenes, it is Kangana Ranaut’s interpretation and portrayal of Rani that has you transfixed as she metamorphoses from a girl into a woman, standing taller, in more fashionable clothes too!

Costumes, production design, dialogue (with a credit for Ranaut) are the other pillars of Queen held up with an assured command by Vikas Bahl, who makes a huge leap from his debut Chillar Party.

The final scene is a perfect parting shot from a delightful film with a career-defining performance by Kangana Ranaut. You root for this girl as she comes of age and finds her mojo.

Rating: ***1/2