I will be honest with you: Manikarnika is the Kangana Ranaut movie I’ve always wanted. In every scene, she looks like she is trying to set fire to everything her eyes. It is awesome.

I’m not a huge fan of historical epics. It’s so easy to get them wrong, to make them too stiff or too modern or not modern enough. Manikarnika focuses squarely on the title character and one Ranaut, which is exactly what I want. We see a few scenes of her as a child/young adult, then boom, she’s married and ruling Jhansi.

Throughout the movie, I kept thinking, “Wasn’t she famous for going in to battle with her baby on her back?” Yes, that does happen, and it’s great.

I also kept thinking, “Wasn’t Shahid Kapoor supposed to be in this?” He is, and like all of the male characters, his role is fairly limited. Which is honestly pretty great, too.

One place where many historical epics fail is that too much emphasis is placed on men. (Well, that’s a problem with most media, ha.) But if you watched historical movies, you’d think that only three women were allowed to exist at a time. But Manikarnika has multiple named women characters of all different ages and backgrounds. They are queens, servants, villagers. They are brave, scared, loyal, angry. Manikarnika is a fierce woman willing to die for her country, but she also rather publicly grieves for her dead child. There are male characters, to be sure, including the main villains, but they are generally one-note.

The costumes and sets are sumptuous. The CGI is not flawless (a serious scene where the British burn a library made me life because the editing was rather poor), but overall used effectively. The speeches were rousing. The villains were evil.

I cannot speak to the historical accuracy, and in fact, the movie begins with an actual disclaimer that the story is fictionalized. But the movie is exciting, beautiful, fast paced. As it ended, I immediately wanted to watch it again.

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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