“The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” aims high in its effort to honor one of India’s most inspirational historical figures.
Lavish and epic in scope, its compelling cast brings to life an extraordinary story of courage and unbreakable spirit.
Unfortunately, a relatively thin script and unremarkable cinematography hold it back from truly taking flight.
What’s it about?
“The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” tells the story of Lakshmibai, the Rani (Queen) of Jhansi, who at age 24 led her people in a mutiny against Britain’s East India Company as they sought to extend their reach throughout Asia.
Her fight against the East India Company’s private army, while ultimately unsuccessful, would have ripple effects politically throughout the region for decades to come. More importantly, her exploits as a warrior and a freedom fighter would inspire generations to resist British colonial rule.
But the film isn’t all battles and sieges. It also focuses on the Rani’s life away from the battlefield, how she defies tradition in order to determine her own destiny.
Ambitious production, weak script
The intent behind “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” is absolutely unmistakable. Director Swati Bhise aims at delivering a rousing, reverent, yet human portrait of a woman whose exploits have earned her comparisons to France’s Joan of Arc.
Her efforts are bolstered by a strong cast led by her daughter, Devika Bhise, who channels a little “Game of Thrones” Danaerys Targaryen into her take on the charismatic and strong-willed Rani.
There’s also a lot to like about the production design and costuming at work here. The film clearly strives for authenticity in terms of the story’s place and time and is successful for the most part.
Where Bhise’s inexperience is most evident, however, is in the overall look of “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi.” There are times in the film where the camera work and framing of shots feel more like what you might see in a dramatic recreation within a documentary rather than a feature film.
Also, as stated earlier, the script just feels thin. In particular, characters aside from the Rani never really come to life fully. The Brits depicted in the film especially suffer in this regard, rendered more or less as stock archetypes.
The result is a mixed bag. Yes, there’s a lot to like here, and the Rani’s story is a powerful and poignant one. Audiences with a taste for historical and period dramas should give this a try for her story alone.
But it could have been better.
The Warrior Queen of Jhansi
Starring Devika Bhise, Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Ben Lamb, with Jodhi May and Derek Jacobi. Directed by Swati Bhise.
Running time: 102 minutes
Rated R for some violence.