Thursday, March 13, 2014

Queen Movie Review

Alice In Wonderland!

Midway while watching Queen, I wondered if this film would have been possible had English Vinglish never been made. And it's hard to brush off that thought. It is as if the director wanted to go the 'alternate' way- of having Sridevi choose that French guy over her husband at the end. But that would have been shockingly inappropriate- not because she's a 'sanskari Bhartiya naari' but that would be illogical, like her role in Chandni (1989)- where if she had chosen Vinod Khanna's character over Rishi Kapoor's, we would have seen liberal Indian woman differently, without defying logic. Rani (the terrific, terrific Kangana Ranaut) of Queen is that woman- or at least she transforms to be one- that independent woman we like to see not only on screen but also around us; and the film is about that transformation. 

On the surface, both English Vinglish and Queen are stories of Indian women who have landed in a foreign country for the first time all alone. However, both these women have been sketched with different brushstrokes (Shashi of English Vinglish, a mother of two, was bounded with her own insecurities; while what concerns us of Rani, here, who just had a break-up with her to-be husband, is her naivety rather than her insecurity); their purposes were different, or as in this case there is no major purpose at all- she goes to Paris-Amsterdam all alone because that was already planned for their honeymoon, no matter her wedding has been called off. 

And yet there are many parallels that can be drawn between the graphs of their character sketch and plot devices: like, making food could earn them some money and they both win confidence when their cooked Indian delicacies are loved by foreigners; their supporters in this journey are some people who come from the parts of world that they have again never seen or heard of and are on their own journey. (Also, some song sequences are picturised in similar fashion of literally creating the environment from the lyrics: Sridevi looms through smoke on streets when the lyrics went aankhon mein dhuan dhuan in "Gustakh Dil"; while Kangana is seen dragging her heavy luggage when one song goes kaandhe yeh bhaari din ko dho nahi paate, or when she bumps into a lock-keys' seller as amma ki chaabi ke chhale se khole plays from "Badra Bahar"). English Vinglish was driven by the fact that the middle-class India is galloped by consumerism (the reason to learn a Western language; Amitabh Bachchan's message in his cameo; bombardment of brands as Shashi lands in Manhattan). That makes it a film more largely relatable to the Indian audience who finds themselves on that verge. While Queen could be more of a personal story, equally relatable and moveable, of finding freedom and being happy with one's own personal choices. Both are progressive, modern Indian films in their respect.

In both the films, it was their respective men who ignited their ambitions of self-discovery. Though it seemed that it was a fight against them, it wasn't- it was a fight with themselves... to find their respectable place, to find themselves. The women knew that their men are sorry but they never demanded for it and are not bothered about it.... Shashi still serves her husband an extra laddoo; Rani never planned a revenge against her fiance, Vijay, who returned being apologetic to her. When Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) traces her to Amsterdam to take her back, she hardly shows interest in him, not even for a casual banter. She says that we can talk all this in Delhi too and right now she wants to go to a Rock Show which was already planned unlike him being here surprisingly. There's no heavy-worded talking involved about "relationships" or "last moment realizations" and all that for which this film could have easily fallen. Her reason is as naive as her and this is where we doubt if she has really changed, though knowing that yes, she has, because she is still the one going by the plans. She then manages to have her escape-for-freedom run in her pink gown, almost looking like a queen, and the theater didn't fail to rupture in applause and whistles.

In a way, this could be Kangana Ranaut's Highway... her journey of self-discovery after visiting a foreign land. Visiting one foreign city changed her fiance too. Her London-return boyfriend who was once crazy about her, now condescends her of lower class and asks her to find a guy of her "type" as he (quite metaphorically) dusts her dry henna off the coffee-table. Her excitement, with which the entire family went "London Thumakada" with kids doing Gangnam style steps on it, fizzes out. Her gloomy state of mind is recalled with moments she had with her boyfriend in flashbacks. This interspersing of events, though makes up for the economy of storytelling, appears to be contrived at times. But it couldn't have been done better given that the film itself is cheerfully smiling with us, and making its way for a coming-of-age story. No sappy emotions, no melodrama, no gloomy hangover. As I said, no heavy-worded talks anywhere. There's even a cliched subplot involved about Rani's Japanese friend Taka, but that too is very neatly done. There's a moment of real life in each of its scenes which, from a distance, makes no sense to the narrative.... like that ordinary lizard scene, or like when two drunken girls are carelessly talking about burps. In fact, most of the serious moments are treated with tender humor in it, which reminds me of Dibakar Bannerjee's style of filmmaking, like in that scene when the kid offers the grandmother a chair to sit while she was consoling Rani, who had closed herself in a room, by telling Rani about her first boyfriend whom she lost during the Partition. These little things work beautifully, but it fails when the film tries to be funny like in a loose-ended scene when Rani's father receives an SMS about the transaction at a sex store, or in an overdone joke about Rani's young brother and father ogling at Vijaylaxmi's (Rani's Parisian friend) cleavage over a video chat.

During this journey, Rani comes across two distinct ladies- one hotel staffer in Paris, Vijaylaxmi (insanely hot Lisa Haydon) and one stripper in Amsterdam, Rukhsar who comes from a 'supposed' conservative Muslim family (and so she has to speak in pure Urdu). Rani couldn't accept them at first yet she passes no judgements against them. Rani when advises Vijaylaxmi not to drink much and have casual sex, she makes faces telling her not to preach. She didn't know that it is actually she herself who is taking away something from them- that liberty to be self and do what you like. Well, at least we know and we love seeing her that way- when she dances on Bollywood songs at night-clubs with her bag on in which she keeps everything from her sweater to Vijaylaxmi's removed bra.

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