Film Review: ‘Queen’

Film Review: 'Queen'

Breakout star Kangana Ranaut plays a jilted bride on a voyage of self-discovery.

A bittersweet Bollywood comedy of self-discovery, Vikas Bahl’s “Queen” is a genuine word-of-mouth hit, a low-budget production that topped the Indian B.O. charts in its first two weeks of release. The surprisingly mild and sweet film tells the story of Rani (“queen” in Hindi), a naive young bride from Delhi who is devastated when her fiance calls things off, but decides to take her European honeymoon trip anyway, on her own. The character seems to have struck a nerve in India, and it may already have made a breakout movie star of 27-year-old Kangana Ranaut (“Krrish 3”), who has been winning awards and rave reviews in supporting roles for almost a decade.

Made for just under $2 million, “Queen” earned the equivalent of $8 million in its first two weeks. Although it opened on March 7 against the heavily promoted star vehicle “Gulaab Gang,” and on one-third the number of screens, it was the No. 1 film in India from day two onward. “Queen” went on to earn more coin in its second week of release than in its first, a sure sign of enthusiastic word of mouth, and a result that Bollywood Hungam business reporter Taran Ardash declared “unbelievable and unimaginable in today’s times.” (The film is still playing in a few locations in the U.S. but never cracked the top 50 there.)

From the point of view of a non-Indian-American, “Queen” seems an oddly modest film to have made such a big splash. It is charming and at times unexpectedly moving, especially in moments of cross-cultural bonding between Rani and the odd assorted group of expats who befriend her, as she wanders somewhat cluelessly around Paris and Amsterdam.

These scenes are the heart of the movie, and Ranaut is great in them, winningly alert and alive, and visibly open to experience. She tilts her head sideways and looks quizzically at people who are behaving oddly, struggling to understand. Rani has been so overprotected at home that she feels helpless, and her progress through the film is marked by her gradual shedding of this fearfulness, as well as a blossoming of self-confidence.

Unfortunately, the same lesson of horizon broadening is learned here again and again, in scenes with an exuberant single mother, at a rock club, at a pole-dancing club, at a sex shop, at a storefront brothel. The film could easily be a half-hour shorter; shot in a loose, handheld style that involved some improvisation, it feels unfocused and repetitive at times, to the point of aimlessness.

The clothing, the behavior and the props shown in some scenes are startling, especially for a film from Bollywood. But none of this really touches Rani, in part because she is presented as so innocent that she barely understands it. There have been several female characters in recent Bollywood films who have behaved more boldly or brazenly than Rani, who at times seems blushingly old-fashioned. At the packed screening attended, it was hard to tell if the appreciative audience was laughing with Rani or at her.

There are some cringe-inducing flaws. The casting of non-Indian supporting roles is at times disastrous, with lapses ranging from the this-a-that-a Chico Marx accent of a hunky Italian chef (Marco Canadea) to the cartoonish stereotyping of Rani’s East Asian roommate at an Amsterdam youth hostel, a Japanese student played by an Anglo-Chinese actor. (A brief shot of a group of Japanese tourists turning en masse to snap photos of Rani bent over puking belongs on the cutting-room floor.)

Much more successful, on the Western side, is Mish Boyko’s likable portrayal of a gangly Russian student, Oleksander, who snaps to Rani’s defense when she’s being pushed around by her selfish putz of an ex-fiance, Vijay (Rajkumar Rao), who has followed her to Amsterdam to try to patch things up.

It is perhaps “Queen’s” most significant failure that there is not more suspense to Rani’s relationship with Vijay. He is such an obvious self-important, spoiled jerk, and she is so consistently observant and level-headed, even with her initial fears, that the outcome is practically preordained. Viewers would have been throwing things at the screen if she had agreed to take him back.

Film Review: 'Queen'

Reviewed at Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino, Calif, March 22, 2014. Running time: 141 MIN.

Production

(India) A Viacom18 Motion Pictures release and presentation of a Phantom production. Produced by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane.

Crew

Directed by Vikas Bahl. Associate director, Chaitally Parmar. Screenplay, Bahl, Parmar, Parveez Sheikh. Camera (color, widescreen), Bobby Singh; editors, Anurag Kashyap, Abhijit Kokate; music, Amit Trivedi; lyrics, Anvita Dutt; production design, Vintee Bansal, Namra Parikh; costume designers, Manoshi Nath, Rushi Sharma; sound, Sanjay Maurya, Allwin Rego; choreography, Bosco Martis, Caesar Gonsalves; casting, Parita Mandalia, Atul Mongia.

With

Kangana Ranaut, Rajkumar Rao, Lisa Haydon, Mish Boyko, Jeffrey Chee Eng-ho, Marco Canadea, Guithob Joseph, Adri Doppenberg. (Hindi dialogue)

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  1. dave c says:

    I stumbled onto Bollywood films a few months ago after running out of films or TV series to watch on Netflix or Amazon. Plus I wanted something lighter than the brooding dead serious murder mysteries I’ve seen lately from Scotland, France, the UK and of course the US. I loved following a light simple, well produced romance without brutality or slapstick, and with a surprising amount of depth as a well protected naive young woman confronts the reality and warmth of people who on the surface are nothing like her. Good enough I ran across this Variety review while searching for other films to watch by the same star or director. Not great, but it at least had a believable story line about a normal person.

  2. I just recently saw “Queen” on Netflix as well. I really enjoyed the film, I had to watch it again for some of the heartfelt scenes. I really liked the scene when Oleksander and Rani were sitting on the rooftop of their hostel, and they were discussing Taka’s family lost in the Japan tsunami. And then when they see her mehndi dance video on London Thamukda; it was a good heartfelt scene. Also loved the cooking competition! Great movie, minus some scenes.

  3. Jaloos123 says:

    Late to the party here. I just recently watched Queen in netflix and I really enjoyed the film. I agree it could have been a bit shorter as it does get repetitive, but the film itself is a refreshing respite from the usual Bollywood drivel. I’ve always admired Kangana Raunat as an actress and this film film served as great reminder as to why I like her.

  4. tisha says:

    nice ending…such losers def. deserve dz in d end…

  5. Update says:

    Nice Movie …Kangana act in this movie is very nice

  6. Anupriyadreams.thani@gmail.com says:

    I like this movie “queen” kangana i am really fan of her&she did role very nice in this film after once upon time in mumbai with ajay devgan sir & i like it romantic type, with swizzling good locations of paris & amsterdam with good shots taken up& well supported team our boss anurag kashyap sir…,

  7. Anupriyadreams.thani@mail.com says:

    I love this movie “queen” kangana i am really fan of her&she did role very nice in this film after once upon time in mumbai with ajay devgan sir & i like it romantic type, with swizzling good locations of paris & amsterdam with good shots taken up& well supported team our boss anurag kashyap sir…,

  8. Akshay.r.purohit says:

    I love this movie “queen” kangana i am really fan of her&she did role very nice in this film after once upon time in mumbai with ajay devgan sir & i like it romantic type, with swizzling good locations of paris & amsterdam with good shots taken up& well supported team our boss anurag kashyap sir…,

  9. Akshay purohit says:

    I love the movie its fantastic, funny of kangana acts but her acting is superb performed

  10. desidaaru12 says:

    I think the film worked because in some ways, Kangana *is* seen as the ‘Rani’/underdog of the Hindi film industry. She has frequently been derided for being too ‘small town’ and for not being fluent in English in the Indian English media, by her peers and casting her for this role was spot on.

    Other than that, I agree with Ala Pop. The amount of misogyny that is depicted and validated in even ‘modern, youth-oriented’ Bollywood movies is unimaginable.

    Most male characters who are presented as desirable romantic partners are actually quite problematic.
    For example, in Kangana Ranaut’s own Tanu Weds Manu, the male lead is a man who actually has the nerve to take a picture of her , kiss her without her consent, and tell her parents he wants to marry her- when he finds her passed out from being intoxicated.
    Unlike Vijay , these men DO end up with the woman. So for an Indian audience,the ending had enough suspense, and wasn’t as forgone as it seems to be.

    • raj devan says:

      I don’t know what you are talking about… Bollywood has always had a tradition of showing male lead protaganists as honorable, chivalrous men who had nothing but the lead actress’ best interests in mind. The chauvinistic jerks were always the villains, like Shakti kapoor, who acted somewhat like Vijay in Queen, and who always lost in the end.

      I mean, think of a movie where Shakti kapoor gets the girl in the end. Does anything cone to mind??

      Yes, some movies these days try to have lead male actors with a few negative qualities as well… But that’s an attempt to make him more realistic by inserting shades of grey to him.

      I’m not sure about american Indian audiences… Their sensibilities and expectations, as well as their idea of contemporary India stems from the conservative country they left in the mid sixties. But Indian audiences in India would have found it odd and sad if Rani had returned to Vijay.

    • Amit says:

      I agree that Kangana has so far remained an underdog in Indian cinema because Indian audiences (until “Queen” at least) have always appreciated glamor and sleaze over quality acting… Most critics (and I am in unanimous agreement with them) believe that Kangana is one of the best, if not the best, actresses of Hindi cinema today, but despite her huge talent, she has remained unappreciated by the audiences… In real-life character, she is a very confident woman (totally opposite of what she portrays in “Queen”) and this has been part of her problem in a highly misogynistic and neoptistic Bollywood.. I am totally floored by Kangana’s acting talents – ranging from an emotionally shattered lover caught between a gangster and an agent in “Gangster” and a drug-addict fallen model in “Fashion” to a misanthropic free-willed girl in “Tanu Weds Manu” and a action mutant in “Krrish 3”, she has performed every character-driven role of the wide variety she has taken on to perfection. I believe she was born to be an actress. As far as “Queen” goes, I read somewhere that, other than Kangana’s performance, Queen has proved to be a landmark film for Indian cinema because it has shown that Indian audience can appreciate well-presented quality cinema, and looking at the box-office numbers, I have to agree.

  11. Ala Pop says:

    Amazing film and amazing acting by Kangana! Would like to comment and clarify a few things in this review from an Indian culture perspective:

    The ending is no doubt predictable from a Western perspective, but not so much from an Indian perspective – most Bollywood movies show guy marries girl at the end, even when there are valid reasons for breakup. Her fiance has been depicted just like an average Indian male youth from a small town. The reviewer says – “He is such an obvious self-important, spoiled jerk” – actually there is nothing conspicuously bad about him from an average small-town Indian perspective – his behavior is like an average guy from such settings. So a typical Bollywood story-line here would go: the guy realizes his mistake, pleads to be taken back and the girl forgives him and marries him, everyone is happy from parents to the couple – the movie might even end with everyone snapping a family picture together. But Queen goes against that story.

    Regarding “the casting of non-Indian supporting roles is at times disastrous, with lapses ranging from the this-a-that-a Chico Marx accent of a hunky Italian chef (Marco Canadea) to the cartoonish stereotyping of Rani’s East Asian roommate at an Amsterdam youth hostel” – well the movie is a comedy (India has a different definition for “comedy” from America – in India, comedy means laugh-out-loud; merely a feel-good movie, though termed “comedy” here in America, falls under “drama” category in India) – I believe the Japanese actor has been purposely stereotyped to inject humor (of course, people who find stereotyping humor in bad taste will not like it – but such humor is used by many, including most stand-up comedians) and as far as the Italian accent goes, it is actually realistic because a lot of Italians (not Italian Americans, but Italians) have that accent.

  12. I loved the film. Kangana acted brilliantly.

  13. voiceswriter says:

    Reblogged this on Voiceswriter and commented:
    Happy for Kangana.

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