Coming to theatres from director Swati Bhise and Roadside Attractions is a tale of battle and the unexpected warriors who fight it with THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI.
Rani Lakshmibai (Devika Bhise) is a young woman married into the royal family becoming Queen of Jhansi. Happy in her marriage, the only unhappiness is the loss of a child yet the adoption of a nephew means a prince and the royal line to continue. Witnessing the adoption is Major Robert Ellis (Ben Lamb) and Sir Robert Hamilton (Nathaniel Parker). Not long after that, husband Gangadhar Rao passes as well.
As the years move on, the East India Company attempts to crush Indian provinces and Lakshmibal is a Queen in their way. Queen Victoria (Jodhi May) understands and makes it clear that she doesn’t want the people hurt. The one person who doesn’t care about that is Sir Hamilton. He considers all the people of India savages and wants to crush them under his boots.
Major Ellis has been a friend to Lakshmibai for years and tries to explain to Major General Sir Hugh Rose (Rupert Everett) that the Queen only wants what is best for her people. Attack after attack, Lakshmibai reaches out to the Indian people to come together because the British soldiers no longer have respect for their friendship.
Bhise as Lakshmibai is stunning in her portrayal of the Jhansi Queen. Learning from the men around her, there comes a time when she must say out loud ‘I am capable’ and when she does they listen. Bhise gives her character a fearlessness wrapped in the beauty of a sari that is belted with a sword. I see it as saying ‘never forget that I may be the woman but can fight like a man’. Remember a certain red-headed Queen who believed that about herself?
Lamb as Ellis watches the Queen grow into her responsibilities. He may have feelings for and want to protect her but he also understands what she is doing. There is a conflict for him in being an officer and a man. He tries his best to be on both sides but in this case it may just be too much to ask.
Parker as Hamilton is just a plain out and out cruel, savage human being. He doesn’t want there to be a peace, he wants to kill every last person who gets in his way. He lies, manipulates and lay in wait when no one is around to do his dirty deeds. The character of Parker is just a reflection of others in that time who felt the exact same way. Parker really does this character evil.
Everett as Maj. Gen. Rose hears both sides but has his orders. The only problem is I’m never really sure what his side is? He says one thing and yet does another knowing that Hamilton is just an instigator. He trusts Ellis but yet doesn’t show it. He is truly a confusing character but I’m happy to see Everett on the screen once again.
May as Queen Victoria is a monarch who doesn’t want to choose sides but it is her friendship with Saleem Khan that helps her see the sadness of it all. The orders she gives are not followed and there fall out (but not enough for my liking). Omar Malik as Saleem makes certain that Queen Victoria understands the struggle and isn’t afraid of any Englishman.
Other cast include R. Bhakti Klein as Walrus Moustache, Glenn Webster as Lord, Nagesh Bhonsie as Bakshish Ali and Derek Jacobi as Lord Palmerston.
This film once again speaks about the era where one group of people feel that another group are savages because they have their own culture, beliefs, traditions and spirit to hold onto their country.
Under the leadership of Lakshmibai, the fight didn’t start because of her and it certainly didn’t stop because of her. She instilled a sense of right for her people and it carried on to others even when The East India Company was abolished much to the hostility of Sir Hamilton.
India is a country filled with a history that is absolutely stunning and majestic and THE WARRIOR QUEEN OF JHANSI shows just that. The richness of tradition is equal to the costuming and music that is so haunting but hits the soul. The cast brings this story full circle with all of these elements combined.
This film is a history lesson yes but more than that. It is a story of a people who understand that it is their duty to fight to keep who they are. They continually make it clear that no one has the right to take away what they hold dear and I couldn’t appreciate that more.
In the end – she fought and died for the freedom of her people.