Starring: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkumar Rao, Lisa Haydon
Directed by Vikas Bahl
Quite often I tweet snatches of the conversations I hear in the women’s compartment on my Delhi Metro commute, on the blue line, which, incidentally, passes through ‘Rjori’ aka ‘Rajauri Garden’, where our heroine Rani (Kangana, in perfect fit with her character) comes from. I heard that familiar chit-chat of the metro in the dialogues of Queen. Throwaway phrases, patois like “Aapne weight put on kiya hai”, “Kyon ro rahe (not rahi, mind you) ho didi”, “Mummyji, daddyji ki kasam”. It’s such casual detailing and seemingly unplanned quotidian touches, like the hilarious “heeng ko English mein kya kehte hain” scene that make Queen more than your usual Delhi-Punjabi shaadi film.
The everyday element extends beyond Rjori to Rani’s travels abroad, her “honeymoon with self” after getting betrayed by her possessive, chauvinist fiancee (Rajkumar, spot on). It captures the minutiae of the foreign jaunt as a few of us backpackers have experienced, a map in hand. It’s about living in youth hostels, where sharing the loo with strange men is a given. It could be about witnessing the first “lip-to-lip” or, as in my case, being offered a 50 per cent student discount for a peep show in Amsterdam’s infamous De Wallen. For many of us middle-class people, who lucked out post liberalisation, travel abroad meant that: a much-needed disruption in our conventional world. Like Rani, it also helped us gain confidence that we can get by, alone, wherever we may be.
Independence is not merely about big battles. For Rani, it is about managing to carry the heavy suitcase up the stairs to her room. Similarly, I have never felt more liberated than when I managed to change the gas cylinder or drove a lizard out of the house. Rani then is a fresh new addition to our filmi women. Someone many us might strongly identify with. Our ‘women’s’ films have traditionally been about tragic, sacrificial, scarred women. It’s about making overt gender statements. Not that all of that is not significant. But there’s also the sheer joy of being a woman, about seizing a moment, life and eternity by just being yourself. Queen celebrates that. So Rani may have a glamorous friend like Vijaylakshmi (hot Haydon). That friend we’ve also had. The one who always stole the spotlight. But we never became as glam as her, just more comfortable in our own ordinary skins. Rani doesn’t change drastically either. Hers is a believable, yet steady assertion of self. Like it has been for many of us.
Queen is a squarely mainstream film. Simplistic? Undemanding? Perhaps. But ultimately it is immensely warm and winsome, pressing just the right emotional buttons. A week after having seen it, I still have a silly smile plastered on my face. I want to stand atop a table and dance in mad abandon to “Hungama ho gaya” and send an e-mail full of hearts and smileys to Rani at firstname.lastname@example.org.