Fiery start for Hindi film on anti-colonial heroine

Actress Kangana Ranaut stars as the title character in Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi.
Actress Kangana Ranaut stars as the title character in Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MUMBAI • The last anti-colonial epic - the Pirates Of The Caribbean-style Thugs Of Hindostan - sank at the Indian box office in November, despite starring big names such as Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Now, another Brit-bashing offering from Bollywood has hit cinemas, a patriotic epic heavy on martial arts and about a warrior queen dubbed India's Joan of Arc.

The Hindi-language Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi has got off to a fiery start, with its star Kangana Ranaut threatening to "destroy" protesters who said the film alludes to an affair with a British officer.

Rani Laxmibai was a leading figure in a failed 1857 uprising against Britain's East India Company, which led London to impose direct control.

Killed in the Battle of Gwalior in June 1858 that ended the rebellion, she has lived on as an independence icon and is usually depicted brandishing a sword while leading her troops to war on a horse.

The film debuted over India's Republic Day weekend, one of two annual holidays that celebrate independence.

Industry watchers expect audiences to flock to a flick that will be full of nationalistic fervour, featuring elaborate costumes and grand battle scenes.

Indian media reports said fanatical groups belonging to India's Rajput caste had held protests against what they believed would be a scene alluding to a relationship between Laxmibai and a British officer.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'Fiery start for Hindi film on anti-colonial heroine'. Subscribe