Queen is anything but a ‘women’s liberation’ film

Poster of the film.

Poster of the film.

The recently released Queen, directed by Vikas Bahl and starring Kangana Ranaut, has captured the buzz in social media—some say it’s refreshing, while others tend to like it for celebrating the joys of a single life. Others like it for its self-rediscovery theme while some think that Kangana’s otherwise lacklustre career might shift gears after this film.

Queen is the story of Rani, a middle-class, plain-dressing Delhi girl, who rediscovers herself on a solo trip to Paris and Amsterdam after her boyfriend Vijay calls off their marriage. Vijay, played by Rajkumar Rao who delivered a power-packed performance in Shahid last year, completing his engineering begins to hobnob in the circles of business deals and client meetings. He thinks that Rani, a graduate in Home Science from a nondescript college with some interest in making sweets at her dad’s shop, no longer belongs to his social class—he has moved on and she hasn’t. Thus, he leaves for London cancelling the marriage just two days prior to the ceremony.

In a rather rebellious stand, the distraught girl decides to go on her honeymoon alone. The rest of the movie is how through different ups and downs—from almost getting robbed in Paris to visiting a red-light area in Amsterdam—Rani jumps out of the well she has lived in for all her life. She drinks and dances her gloom out in a disc in Paris and kisses a suave chef in Amsterdam—the first kiss of her life.

Kangana Ranaut got into the skin of Rani’s character and has delivered a memorable performance. The cinematography is attractive and the way in which some sequences—like the one in which Rani sees the Eiffel Tower for the first time and runs away from it because it brings back to her the memories of planning to see it together with Vijay after marriage— are filmed, are really worth a watch. The music also aides the story-telling, and brings life to the scenes.

But, perhaps, where Queen gets it all wrong is in showing a true change.  It forcibly tries to tell us that Rani had indeed changed into an independent woman after seeing the world. She no longer believes her happiness can be trapped in the yes or no of her boyfriend or the society itself, in a broader perspective.

Yes, she meets a prostitute in Amsterdam who tells her that prostitutes too are humans, not mere dirty women, as middle-class ethos go. She makes friends with three guys and shares a room with them and they don’t molest her—she realises that good men are there in this world too unlike what Delhi must have taught her. A promiscuous young woman in Paris shows her how a non-conservative woman, completely unlike Rani herself, can be a really helpful friend.

But how do these events transform our protagonist? Is change really that easy?

Is drinking and dancing at a pub enough to liberate a young Indian woman who comes with burdens innumerable? Does shopping in a posh mall for skimpy dresses alone makes you a tough woman? Or does kissing a European gentleman?

Where is any sort of cultural or societal realisation? Does she try to get into what actually woman’s liberation, their fight for freedom, means?

Of course these incidences might for moment puncture the values which Rani’s parents must have taught her to be ‘holier than Thou’ but, unfortunately, they are not enough to tell the story of an Indian woman finding herself in this mad, mad world.

Queen falls drastically short of answering any broader questions.

In this regard, another recent film that can be said to have tackled this ‘woman finding herself’ theme effectively is English-Vinglish.  The plot of English-Vinglish treads on the same lines. After being ridiculed by her daughter and husband every day for not being able to speak good English, the protagonist, played by Sridevi, picks up fluent English while visiting the United States for a relative’s marriage.

In the end, however, the protagonist realises the entire futility of being pompous just because one can speak fluent English. She picks up the language and yet doesn’t become arrogant towards her husband and daughter who had picked on her for her language whenever possible. The film’s plot takes ‘English-speaking’ as a window to answer a number of cultural questions and does it beautifully.

Queen scores no point in its consideration of deeper and complicated issues. It tells the story of Rani—our Queen—in a rather simple way, without even an attempt to open up the floor for further discussions.

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