The Warrior Queen of Jhansi


Portrait of a warrior queen.

(2019) Biographical Drama (Roadside AttractionsDevika Bhise, Rupert Everett, Derek Jacobi, Ben Lamb, Nathaniel Parker, Jodhi May, Milind Gunaji, Arif Zakaria, Siyaa Patil, Omar Malik, Ajinkya Deo, Yatin Karyekar, Nagesh Bhonsle, Arush Nand, Naina Sareen, Auroshika Dey, Glenn Marks, Spandan Chaturvedi, Deepal Doshi, Mihai Iliescu, Francisco Raymond, Sonia Albizuri. Directed by Swati Bhise

 

India is not known for being a bastion of feminism. That’s what makes the importance of Lakshmibai (D. Bhise), the former Rani (Queen) of Jhansi, so intriguing.

The young Queen of the strategic city of Jhansi was widowed, her much older husband (Gunaji) passing shortly after their own son had died as an infant and in order to maintain the succession, they had adopted their nephew Damodhar (Nand). This was in 1857, mind you, and the rapacious East India Trading Company was the de facto ruling body of India, so decreed by Queen Victoria (May) and supported by her Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston (Jacobi). However, the company has turned into something toxic due to their overwhelming greed and overt racism, as embodied by their representative Sir Robert Hamilton (Parker) who snarls about the Indian people and yearns to butcher as many of them as possible. He may be the most unbelievable villain based on a historic person in cinematic history.

Following the death of the king, the East India Company turns its greedy sights onto Jhansi, ruling that Damodhar was not the legitimate heir because he was adopted; therefore, Jhansi would become company property. Lakshmibai was loathe to see that happen and went on a letter writing campaign to plead for help, up to and including to Queen Victoria herself. The only sympathetic ear she received was from Major Ellis (Lamb) who carried a bit of a torch for the Rani.

Pushed into a corner and wanting to preserve her city, Lakshmibai stood up to the British and Jhansi was put under siege for her trouble. Sir Hugh Rose (Everett), whose politics were somewhat convoluted, served as something of a mediator between the villainous Hamilton and the ore moderate Ellis. It took longer than expected but the superior firepower of the British eventually led to the fall of Jhansi – although the Rani managed to escape with much of her army.

Even though Jhansi had fallen, the Rani became a symbol throughout India, and as the Great Mutiny spread, she was regarded as a hero. The East India Trading Company couldn’t afford to let her live and so they brought all their resources to bear in the hopes of capturing or killing her.

The movie is gorgeous to look at with the colonial-era costumes, the sumptuous sets and the large-scale battle sequences. This was the debut feature for Swati Bhise and her inexperience shows; some of those set pieces are shot in a rather static fashion and there is very little dynamic camera movement.

This was actually a Hollywood production, not a Bollywood one (two other films on the Mutiny have already been released this year including one focusing on the Rani herself, both made in India) and it has both the advantages and pitfalls of Hollywood productions. The advantages are in the production values I mentioned earlier; the pitfalls in the way the writers played fast and loose with history. The quasi-romance between the Rani and Major Ellis was without basis; also, Khan (Malik), the Indian adviser to Queen Victoria, wasn’t born until five years after Lakshmibai passed away and wasn’t her adviser until the end of the 19th century.

There are a lot of clichés here as well as some clunky dialogue; the ending, narrated by the younger Bhise, is a bit precious and doesn’t serve the film well at all. Like most Hollywood productions, this isn’t meant to be a history lesson, although it does get some of the salient facts right. It is entertaining enough to recommend with Devika Bhise’s performance as the Rani being to a large measure responsible for that. She has the screen presence to pull off a role that is so iconic to the Indian people. It’s a shame she didn’t write a film that is worthy of her performance.

REASONS TO SEE: The production values are gorgeous. Devika Bhise does a fine job at making the Rani larger than life.
REASONS TO AVOID: A bit rote in places with a twee ending.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence, instances of institutional racism and references to rape.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Swati and Devika Bhise, in addition to directing and starring in the film (respectively), also co-wrote the film – and yes, they are related; they are mother-daughter.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/16/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 9% positive reviews: Metacritic: 25//100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Manikarnika: Queen of Jhansi
FINAL RATING: 7/10
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New Releases for the Week of November 15, 2019


FORD V. FERRARI

(20th Century Fox) Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Wallace Langham, Noah Jupe. Directed by James Mangold

In 1966, the auto racing world was dominated by Ferrari. Ford was considered a quaint American manufacturer of sedans. When they enlisted designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles to create a car that could beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours at Le Mans, the two would help create an American legend.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: True Life Sports
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for some language and peril)

Better Days

(Well Go USA) Dongyu Zhou, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin, Jue Huang. A young woman, relentlessly bullied as she prepares to take the college entrance exam, hooks up with a small-time criminal. The two are caught up in the midst of a murder investigation that threatens their fragile budding relationship.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: NR

Charlie’s Angels

(Columbia) Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou. Three beautiful and incredibly capable private detectives are called on a case to protect a young system engineer who is blowing the whistle on potentially dangerous technology that threatens all our lives.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for action/violence, language and some suggestive material)

The Good Liar

(Warner Brothers) Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter. A con man sets his sights on a recent widow who is worth millions – millions he means to take for himself. However, the stakes soon become far higher.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Suspense
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for some strong violence, and for language and brief nudity)

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

(Saban) Kevin Smith, Jay Mewes, Chris Hemsworth, Melissa Benoist. When iconic stoner duo Jay and Silent Bob discover that Hollywood has decided to reboot the movie based on them that they once tried to stop, they decide that second time is the charm and head west to do battle with the powers that be in Tinseltown.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Barnstorm Theater
Rating: R (for pervasive crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some nudity)

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi

(Roadside Attractions) Devika Bhise, Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Ben Lamb. The 24-year-old Queen of Jhansi became a national hero of India in 1857 for standing up to British colonialism. This is her epic tale.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC West Oaks, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for some violence)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Autonomy
Feast of the Seven Fishes
No Safe Spaces
Radioflash
The Report
The Shed
Turkey Bowl

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

American Dharma
The Irishman
The Report

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Everybody’s Everything
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Luce
Mariaavaan

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Bala
Becoming Nobody
Thiparaa Meesam

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Feast of the Seven Fishes
Ford v. Ferrari
The Good Liar
The Irishman
Radioflash
The Report
Warrior Queen of Jhansi

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale FL
Jacksonville Film Festival, Jacksonville FL
Jewish Film Festival of SW Florida, Fort Myers, FL