Queen Alice in wonderland.
Akin to her ‘Alice in wonderland’ t-shirt and its story, Kangana’s Queen falls down the rabbit-hole of a cancelled marriage and ends up on her honeymoon alone, in Europe. Contrary to this complicated world she lives in, Rani herself is simple and purehearted and remains who she is everywhere, with a certain pride. This simplicity, naivete and a strong faith that the world is good is so old world, so much a part of what one expects from the love one gets from one’s mother if at all, in terms of purity, that one can’t help but fall in love with this character.
What does this film do really, other than give its protagonist a journey that will make her grow up, change, come of age, it gives us this reaffirmation in the strength of a certain goodness, of keeping it pure, of a certain amount of faith and positivity. What may seem silly and over the top to start with slowly ends up being the glue that endears us. True to what Vijay says ‘that Queen seems like she’s been made by dipping her in Chashni’, this is the one thing that will slowly make you feel love for this character and this film.
Under normal circumstances a film that doesn’t go deep enough journey-wise, relationships wise would have left a viewer wanting to a certain extent but Rani is so addictive over time that you can’t help forget that the film doesn’t deal with any negativity, situations are gotten out of too easily and there is never any apparent harm to her, when in a more realistic world there would be.
At a slightly deeper level it is also her life where she just says yes to everyone and does what everyone tells her to, a certain submissiveness but also a certain need to please everyone around her, something so many of us might have had as parts of our personalities when we were younger, that endears us to her story. Right from the first jolt to her psyche she begins like a butterfly, her metamorphosis, to display behavior that is now about her more than the people around her. And this is another exciting thing as a viewer. In saying that she wants to go for this honeymoon alone she has already rebelled and broken out of her ordinary world. Rani takes the call to a new world, a world which has to change now after this shock of a cancelled marriage and social stigma, in her action of wanting to go alone somewhere her psyche has already taken the hand of change. Then it doesn’t matter if the rest of the journey seems accidental like falling through a rabbit hole time and again into newer and newer sub-worlds.
And akin to Alice’s journey she also meets a host of characters who are almost surreal in her worldview, almost amorphous, sub-terranean creatures who lead lives that would have been unfathomable by her old self but not by this new evolving Rani.
The first character she meets is almost a diametrically opposite woman. It’s like standing near a mirror that shows her the exact opposite of who she is and what she wants to see her self image as and now this is her companion for the ride. She beautifully learns what she needs to from Vijaylakshmi, who magically has the same name Rani is running from, and continues to change. One lovely thing is that it is her grandmother who urges her to jump into this rollercoaster of change when she is lying in bed in a new country.
And the most beautiful thing about this story is its repeated understanding and use of transience. Nothing is permanent in a sense and our dear Queen has to understand that time and again. She, like all of us do lifelong, tends to cling onto things that she has bonded with, to situations that she now feels at ease in, to people she feels love for and connected with, and time and again the world of the story teaches her that transience is the only permanent. She falls in love with Vijay, that changes, she falls in love with Vijaylakshi, that changes, she falls in love with the trio of Taka, Olelksander and Tim and they too leave, because that is the very nature of life. Queen gets this so right it hurts and in this is its biggest victory.
Another thing this story explores subtly is how we view ourselves and how life tends to mess with that slowly and deeply. At the beginning of the film Queen can’t help but think of herself as one kind of human being, of woman, of girlfriend, of friend, of entity. But with every stage this self perception of hers keeps changing, until after every last layer is peeled what stands alone and naked is her indefatigable spirit. And this spirit in almost all of us is mind-numbingly beautiful and endearing. It’s just that we hide it under all our dozens of self-perceptions.
Another beautiful moment is when Queen, Taka, Tim and Olek end up leaving their pasts behind on that one wall in that hostel. A ritual, like burning up an ex lover’s photographs, that empowers the person performing the ritual to be free of the grasp of the past and really move on; such a beautiful cinematic moment.
The end in which the final test and threshold of a permanent change of sorts happens is also beautiful. The lady who sat besides me in the cinema hall couldn’t help but exclaim ‘Superb, superb, superb’ repeatedly as Queen walked away from what, two weeks ago, she felt she’d die without.
Coming at a time when finally woman oriented films where a woman drives the story forward, are becoming more common, English Vinglish, Gulab gang, Holiday being prime examples, Queen is another breath of fresh air in this otherwise sometimes regressive state of cinematic affairs in the country.
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