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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Kangna in powerhouse performance

Reading Time: 3 minutesREVOLVER RANI

Starring: Kagna Ranaut, Vir Das, Piyush Mishra

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Director: Sai Kabir

Rating: 3 and a half stars

Hail the female! Kangna Ranaut plays the quirky queen of all she surveys. She lords over her doomed anarchic and wretched kingdom like a doped and excitable Pan Singh Tomar.

It is a dangerous world out there in the Indian heartland. Specially for women who have to fight prejudices and betrayals on so many levels.

In a scene straight out of a street play, Kangna, playing what seems like a cross between Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and Seema Biswas in Bandit Queen, Kangna tells the mother of a young girl, “Teach her how to shoot a gun. It’s the only way she can survive”.

Revolver Rani is a deeply satisfying tribute to many things at the same time. Director Sai Kabir (who has previously made an unreleased film) pays a hefty homage to many filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Quentin Tarantino, Mehboob Khan and Shekhar Kapoor. And yet for its derivative aspirations, Revolver Rani is a fiercely original piece of cinema, crafted with compelling concentration and impassioned intuition. The mayhem is meticulously executed. It serves as the evocative backdrop for the life of an outlawed bandit-politician.

Kangna plays a woman of substance who, going by her high-octane energy level, seems to be guilty of substance abuse. And that’s the least of her crimes. Alka Singh, as played by Kangna in her second powerhouse performance this year, is the female goon who speaks most eloquently with the nozzle of her gun. There is an awkwardness to her ‘Chambal ki boli‘ that dissolves when she has to converse with a ‘bandook ki goli‘.

Kangna’s askew personality and her lisping halting dialogue delivery give her character a cutting edge which distinguishes a remarkable and powerful performance, taking it into the realm of the truly inspired.

I wonder what Alka Singh would have been if Kangna had not played this feisty women! Alka’s epic saga is partly cartoonish, partly a documentary on bandit-politics spliced together to make the woman an outrageously endearing outlaw.

At heart, Revolver Rani is a heartbreaking love story of a crass, powerful female politician who falls for a sleazy selfish Bollywood aspirant. We can see what a jerk he is. She can’t. As she goes through a sham marriage and a very real pregnancy with the certifiable asshole, Kangna’s character’s blind love turns into frustration and fury in front of our eyes.

Vir Das plays the wannabe star who ends up as a trapped fluttering toy boy to the lusty politician, with an intimacy and incredulity that make the character appear both cheesy and pathetic, and yet comic.

In the lust-relationship, Sai Kabir reverses the traditional gender equation making the female hero the sex-hungry predator and the male companion an object of her lust. In the second-half when Alka Singh wants to turn her infernal kingdom into a nursery school of paradisical normalcy, the director indulges and pampers her womanly instincts without mocking the trigger-happy woman’s sudden swerve into softness and femininity.

It is a dangerously balanced-out world field with outrageous deceit. Sai Kabir pulls out all stops to let his protagonist swim in the tides of blood and anarchy. Wading through the muck, Alka endeavours to find herself an utopian balance in her unbalanced world. The end is a shocker, as it knocks off the bottom from Alka’s world and lets her slide into the abyss without prejudice.

Revolver Rani is a film of baffling contradictions and anomalies. It starts with 10 minutes of dreadfully self-conscious political humour and then steers adroitly into Alka’s love life with a cocky contempt for conventional signposts of female empowerment. The feminist hoardings are bypassed in favour of creating untried rules of unorthodox womanhood.

More than the political intrigue, I was enthralled by Kangna’s growing love for the thoroughly undeserving ‘Cham-cham’ (yup, that’s the cheesy nickname for her toy boy). The desperate passion she feels for this cad is so palpable as to make love appear as the greatest crime in Alka Singh’s world of pervasive outlawry.

Director Sai Kabir’s film is wacky goofy and ultimately acutely tragic. The proceedings in the plot are as unpredictable as its kinky capricious female hero’s untameable curls. All steel guns and iron bras, Revolver Rani is raunchy, sexy, quirky and fey. Giving a feverish vigour and velocity to Kangna’s Phoolan-on-steroids act are Aarti Bajaj’s unsparing editing and Suhas Gujarathi’s state-of-art cinematography.

Like Kangna’s Alka Singh, there is no artifice in the technique applied to the proceedings. Revolver Rani is as real as comic book heroines can get.

And if that seems like an irreconcilable merger of two separate worlds, then so be it. Commercial Hindi cinema has come of age.

SUBHASH K JHA

 

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