Bollywood has often been the canvas where visionary film-makers have painted their masterpieces. Its range has varied from the extravagance and panache of Mughal-e-Azam to the understated and subtle Khatta Meetha. The art of mixing comedy with reason is rare, and only a few film-makers in the past- Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee to name a few, have not only mastered it but taken it to a new height. In fact a good comedic movie is like a perfectly boiled tea, not too stern to feel bitter but not too light to not have an impact. It’s rare when sentiments and empathy are arisen in the mind of the viewer, with the medium of motion picture, and it’s even rarer when you leave a movie hall caring for the protagonist, both happy about her choices as well are enthusiastic about what she would do next. A movie which had that impact on me was Vikas Bahl’s free spirited deeply reflective film Queen. When I went to see it, four days prior to its release, I was having a very bad day, and that was about to change pretty soon.
Part time anything has its perks. Part time working for a restaurant has its tips, part time musicians have that extra impetus of trying new things and a student doing his six month internship in Delhi, has the privilege of being inactive for most parts of the day. Hence, watching movies in the cosy nearby Spice Mall had become a habit for me and a few of the people living with me in my PG. The routine of arriving for the cheaper late night shows, followed by being overcome by the sense of darkness and smell that a movie hall brings as well as the general cacophony of the people settling down, was all too familiar as the endless health hazard clips and toothpaste ads played on, adding to my frustration. The movie had started with a shot akin to that of a Wedding clip, the house, the dance and the cheery sugar-coated buzz of a Punjabi wedding was a precursor to a terrible break-up and an impending wedding cancellation for our protagonist Kangana Ranaut, aka Rani. The scene where she leaves the coffee house crying after the devastating revelation that her fiancé wasn’t interested in the marriage anymore, was artistic and ironic as the shot ended on the slogan of the coffee house, “A lot can happen over a cup of coffee”. Till that part, the movie was much too similar and familiar.
The beauty of this movie lies in its heart. On seeing their broken inconsolable daughter, the parents try to comfort her, instead of blaming her for the cancellation and the losses of their investments. The grandmother trying to cheer her grand-daughter with tales of her romantic exploits in Pakistan is endearing. She eventually decides to go on her honeymoon to find some meaning and closure. The Parisian culture has a different sensibility and a different pace, that scares Rani and she wants to flee away to India when she almost gets mugged but she chooses to continue her espionage when gets drunk and finds a companion in Vijay Lakshmi. This film’s genius is accredited to many of its heroes. One such hero was Vijay Lakshmi. Born out of sin, she had to fend for herself growing up and that developed her into a strong feminist. Never afraid to shy away from intimacy, her sexual exploits greatly confound Rani who once innocently asked her about the father of her young kid. Getting to know Vijay Lakshmi helped her to get to know herself. She realised her passion for uninhibited dance when she gets drunk in a French bar to the classic cabaret sound of Asha Bhonsle’s Hungama Ho Gaya, something which her then fiancé never accepted or encouraged. His disapprovals and male chauvinistic views which had shaped her mentally for this marriage, had now become a list of objectives that she unconsciously ticked off. She moves to Amsterdam and one misses Vijay Lakshmi’s free spirited presence as she signs of while putting on her shades with a poise that only she could possess. Needless to say, Amsterdam was fun too.
Critiquing an uptight Italian chef, sharing a dorm room with three multi-ethnic guys, beating numerous chefs in a cooking competition with her Gol gappas, meeting a stripper of Indian origin dexterous in the Urdu language and buying a bunch of accessories from a Sex Toy store for her relatives back home, without any idea of what they actually were, were only some of the wacky things that she did in Amsterdam. And what did that teach her? That is where Queen derives its meaning. A pampered simple girl who is brought up to believe that marriage is the natural and only way of life, is given a rude shock, when her fiancé leaves her. She goes to a foreign nation and learns that to live, one just needs to be happy. A husband does not define you, nor can he command you to change the person you are, just because you do not fit his perception of a perfect wife. A nice quote from the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower come to mind, “We accept the love we think we deserve”.
However, all this is fairly easy to realise when you are at your comfort on leather chair, watching this movie in a movie hall and introspecting into the life of another person. The tables turn when it happens to an innocent girl who believes in the virtuous aspects of life, and the journey of hers from falling into despair to that where she goes to her ex-fiancé’s house and breaks thing up once and for all is what makes this movie special. It’s virtues of feminism is meteoric and dare I say, futuristic. A state of conscience should prevail when you live for what you feel makes you happy and not what pleases others. One who dictates his mandates on his better half can never be a good partner in life and Rani would find hers, and so will you.