There’s Something About Vague Women: A Review of QUEEN


by Sujata Bakshi

“Why fart and waste it, when you can burp and taste it?”

Okay – not exactly the most brilliant sentence in the film, but it had me laughing so loudly, I had no idea what the dialogue was that followed this.

Queen is a feel-good film about a young girl, Rani, from Delhi. She belongs to a decent middle class family, her father is a sweet shop owner, she has done Home Science from a Polytechnic and three days before her wedding, her fiancé, Vijay, dumps her. After shutting herself in her room and trying to talk him out of this, she comes out of hiding and tells her parents that she wants to go on her planned honeymoon alone – a decision that her grandmother supports. So far, so good, and this is what we all knew about the film before we went into the hall to see it. There must be some marketing machinery that has a movie hall at 9:50 a.m. on Monday almost full! I was amazed.

The actress, Kangana Ranaut, played her part so brilliantly, that I didn’t really think she played a role. She seemed so natural in her character that one asks, where did Kangana end and where did Rani begin?  The story starts with a voice-over from Rani herself. She lets us be a part of her thoughts – another fabulous storytelling device (without any overdoing). Rani is an innocent, and her character opens up slowly – layer by layer during the duration of the film. Even her lack of flawless English is charming, especially since all the main characters are non-English speakers. And despite her naivety, Rani isn’t boring, perhaps because she calls to the innocence many of us have lost.

As her journey starts, her hands have the colour of fresh henna, reminding her and us of the disaster that she tries to leave behind her. Rani’s journey takes her first to Paris, the city of love. There she meets the leggy, sexy Vijaylaxmi (Lisa Haydon), who tells Rani to call her “Vijay”. Rani manages to win Vijaylaxmi’s heart. Her brazenness and nonchalance is a sharp contrast to Rani’s innocence – tiny nuances, where she looks away when Vijay kisses a guy she meets at a café or her shock about Vijay having a son but no husband. Rani’s first meal at a chic Paris restaurant where she has no clue to what she is ordering (Tête de poisson avec les tomates) because the waiter rapidly though not rudely speaks French and thinks nothing of translating the dishes for her or fight for her handbag in an alley go on to show just how daunting a new city in a foreign part of the world can be. Funny yet heart stopping is the scene where Rani tries to cross the worst streets ever – Champs-Élysées – remembering her fiancé holding her hand while crossing the road back home. Vijay, the fiancé, is referred to in the various flashbacks, which form the story that lead to the romance and the engagement to the two of them.

Paris by Night (Photograph: Devapriya Roy)

Paris by Night
(Photograph: Devapriya Roy)

Though Vijaylaxmi has seen much of the world, she admires Rani’s bravure telling her, “You are a very brave person – you have come all the way from India to France. From Paris to Amsterdam is a short journey. You will manage this too.” And so begins the second part of her journey. As shoestring budget holidaymakers (and those who really want adventure and fun) do, Vijaylaxmi books Rani in a hostel. Rani’s initial horror at having to share the room with three strange men (a Frenchman – Tim, a Russian – Olekzander and a Japanese guy – Taka) wanes as she starts interacting with them and this little group of guys becomes her family away from home – each one with his own baggage and story. An extremely touching moment is when Rani forces the three to go to the church with her and while the choir sings a moving rendition of Mozart’s Ave Verum, another facet of her little “family” is revealed.

While there are several sensitive and thoughtful moments, the film has many more funny moments without being completely slapstick. Venturing into a sex-shop in Amsterdam is one such moment. Delightful is how Rani’s face lights up when she hears a Bollywood song in a Paris club – where she sheds her cardigan and inhibitions to wake up to a whacky hangover. The characters portrayed in the film, Vijaylaxmi, Tim, Olekzander, Taka and Marcello (a very delectable Italian – yummy – salt and pepper hair and delicious accent – yikes – I’m such a foodie!) are all away from home and non-native English speakers. This adds to the beauty of the film, when each one slips into their mother-tongue in an emotional moment – neither person understanding the words while perfectly understanding the meaning – then isn’t this what friendship is about? (Reminded me of Inglish-Vinglish)

Absolutely worth mentioning is the music – the film boasts of some fabulous tit-bits. My favourite is “Harjaiyaan” followed closely by “Kinare” and “Ranjha” – beautiful lyrics. As subtle as the film and the characters, equally evocative and beautiful is the music accompanying it. Various reviews have called this film a “coming of age” film. I don’t see it that way. Rani’s is a character that one can relate to. She is a strong person who realises her strength away from home. This “timeout” lets her find out what she really wants. Flashbacks and present day scenes with her fiancé show the deeper moments of their relationship. While in any other Bollywood film one would have used the shopping moment in Paris to completely change her style and give her a Cinderella look, Vikas Bahl remains authentic. Rani gains confidence without giving herself up completely, while the colour of the henna on her hands fades gradually. Her coyness gives way to a gentle confidence and she remains throughout the film the undisputed queen of our hearts. And if you do decide to watch this film, remain seated till the very end – then, in our median world of Facebook, Rani DOES feel very much at home.

(Sujata Bakshi, who likes cats, music, food, photography and writing (not necessarily in that order), is a Bong who is at home everywhere in the world but mostly in Delhi where her parents live and Gütersloh where she has spent almost half her life. She is the sort of person who, when life hands her a bowl of lemons, takes a bottle of Tequila and salt to it.)

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