The film is about Rani (hence the title : Queen), a girl from Rajouri Garden, Delhi. Rani’s dad owns a mithai ki dukan, a sweet shop and they live in middle-class affluence; a conservative Punjabi family with a sweet, docile daughter. In time, budding engineer Vijay, the son of family friends, falls in love with this docile, obedient girl, and the two being willing, a date is set for the marriage. Vijay (Rajkumar) returns from London, where he is working, for the wedding. The day before the wedding he summons Rani to a cafe and calls off the wedding. Rani is shocked and flustered, and after much weeping, decides to go on her honeymoon alone. That is when her journey really begins.
I have very few complaints with this film. The story, screenplay, direction and acting was great. The characters felt very real, from Rani’s protective parents to Vijay and his smarmy family. The settings feel authentic and the little details are just right. Rani herself was beautifully drawn, a hesitant, unassuming plain jane, going to college and helping out at the shop. All she’s ever done is listened to her parents, and done what everyone wanted, and what was “allowed”, as she puts it. Her lonesome honeymoon is her own little rebellion, a trip she says she will not take if her parents disapprove. They, concerned parents that they are, let her go, with admonitions to be very careful, and to talk to them everyday.
Conservatively brought up Rani is shocked out of her middle-class sensibilities when she meets leggy, liberated Parisian hotel-maid VijayLaxmi (Lisa Haydon), and later other folk from different countries. This feel-good film picks up steam as Rani goes about her adventures, her eyes and her mind opening wider and wider to the array of possibilities. Kangana is spectacular as Rani, preserving Rani’s core of grace and good-heartedness throughout her transformation. Thanks to Kangana (and the script), towards the end of the film Rani does not turn into some revenge-seeking harridan (not that I’d have a problem with that), but a quiet, confident, and still soft-spoken woman. It is lovely to see!
Haydon does well as VijayLaxmi. The non-Indian cast of Mish Boyko (playing Russian Oleksander), Guithob Joseph (playing French Tim) and Jeffrey Chee Eng Ho (as Japanese Taka) were good, although the Japanese character seemed a tad cliched. The music of the film is another big plus, with the thrumming “London Thumakda”.
Importantly, this film shows how women are “kept in place”, by telling them that the restrictions on them are for their own good or because their actions will dishonor the family. It shows how docile daughters are created, and then turned into obedient wives who can’t work outside the home, can’t dance as they please, can’t roam around alone. It also shows how patriarchal society colludes to make girls believe that marriage is the ultimate goal, and that women denied that goal (like Rani) are only worthy of pity. When Rani discovers the truth, it sets her free.
In Bollywood where feminist films are rare, Queen is a breath of fresh air. It’s theme of empowerment/finding oneself is similar to that of “English-Vinglish”, but Queen does it better. Highly recommended!