There are a few good reasons to watch Vikas Bahl’s latest film Queen, but the most persuasive of those can be stated in two words – Kangana Ranaut.
Queen is a touching and entertaining film with some very nice performances, and Ranaut is the clear star here- often funny, almost always goofy and eternally charming.
We meet the Rani (Kangana Ranaut) a couple of days before her wedding to Vijay (Rajkummar Rao), and see her being ditched by him on some flimsy pretext. I suppose you can’t expect much more from a man whose nickname for the love of his life is the English translation of her name.
Rani then decides to go on her honeymoon trip all alone to Europe and see all the places she had hoped to with Vijay. There is no great novelty in how the plot goes from there – the mishaps, the newly discovered freedom, and those oh-so-hot Europeans, but I found myself surprisingly interested in Rani’s escapades. Her first European companion is the Spanish-French-Indian Vijayalakshmi (Lisa Haydon) whose slightly-less-than-fully-clad appearance on a video-chat session with Rani’s parents causes much testosterone flow among Rani’s teenage brother and retired father.
As you know it will, Rani struggles, but adapts to (with the help of some good alcohol) this new, strange environment and meets, as confirmed by the generally appreciative hoots in the theatre, very good looking men and women. You almost want to be jealous of the carefree life she discovers, but it’s hard to begrudge her- you really want a happy ending for these types.
At some level, I find it disturbing how easily you find Hindi speaking Westerners in films. I found out to my relief that the three European/Japanese friends she makes, do not speak Hindi because they once spent a summer in Goa. The chemistry between the trio and Rani is quite palpable, and that makes for great viewing.
There is a brief moment at the end where we think Rani almost goes back to the Delhi life she left behind to go see the world – the one with kitty parties and cooking and three kids- and almost want to jump out of your seat in protest, because we have become attached to who she is, and who she can become. She abandons her old life for good – sorry about the spoiler- but really, you know that this kind of a girl- an original- doesn’t deserve that kind of shallowness in her life.
Too many films try to make a statement about women and freedom – the disappointing Highway comes to mind- but Queen just about manages to walk the line, and that, primarily, is down to its lead actor. Is there something dramatically new with what the film has to say? No, not really. It’s a coming of age story that just dresses up a lot of old things in fancy Europe. But that’s the thing about good acting- it compels you to watch, drags your brain, screaming and kicking, into paying attention to it. That’s what Ranaut did to me- she charmed me into being happy about watching Queen, and at the end, although I came to the sudden realization that there was nothing inordinately special, I found myself cheering on for Rani, and revelling in her small victories. And that, for me at least, is the hallmark of good acting.
A special word of appreciation to Rajkummar Rao here – I’ve rarely seen a more complete performance from an actor in the role of a- for lack of a better word- dickhead. At no point does he come off looking anything less than a self-obsessed bastard. It was an absolute pleasure hating his character – that’s how good he is.
And when you find yourself caring for and hating figments of someone’s imagination, you know the movie was worth it.