She has mostly played flawed characters but actress Kangana Ranaut says she is lucky to finally do a “heroic” role with her portrayal of Rani Laxmibai, the warrior queen of Jhansi.
Kangana will essay the titular role in Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, to be directed by Krish. Baahubali writer K Vijayendra Prasad has penned the screenplay for the movie.
The actress, who has been a part of women-oriented films such as Queen and Tanu Weds Manu, says it is the most exciting character of her career.
“The way Vijendra sir has written it and conceived it, it’s very superhero-like. Usually, my characters are flawed and human in terms of their abilities. But this one is extraordinary,” Kangana told reporters.
Rani Laxmibai’s presence in popular culture has been limited, except for filmmaker Sohrab Modi’s 1953 film Jhansi Ki Rani and a TV series that aired between 2009-2011.
“When I signed this film my first thought was ‘How come there’s no film on Jhansi ki Rani yet?’ I suddenly felt very fortunate that there isn’t any yet. Because if there was even one film on Rani Laxmibai irrespective of its quality or content, then nobody would have repeated it. So, I consider it a stroke of luck that I’m doing it,” she says.
The film will have grand action sequences and Kangana is doing her best to “match up to her director’s vision. He wants to use that so he has researched and he understood that she was extraordinary when it came to riding, probably one of the best in the world,” she says.
Rani Laxmibai is known for her rebellious attitude. When asked if she also has the similar streak in her, Kangana says, “I agree that I’m rebellious but she was a rebel with a cause and that makes her a hero. I rebel if my instincts want me to. So, she was a hero and I’m a bada**.”
The film, which will be shot in Varanasi, Maheshwaram, Jhansi and Rajasthan, will release on April 27 next year.
The 30-year-old actress has confirmed that she will start working on her film post the Manikarnika and it will be a comedy.
“After Manikarnika, I’m directing my film. It’s going to be a comedy,” Kangana added.
Indian Freedom Fighter
Rani Laxmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi (November 1835 – 17 June 1858) was the queen of the Maratha-ruled princely state of Jhansi, situated in the northern part of India. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and a symbol of resistance to the rule of the British East India Company in the subcontinent.
Her father worked at the Peshwa court of Bithoor and because of his influence at court Laxmi bai had more independence than most women, who were normally restricted to the zenana. She studied self-defence, horsemanship, archery, and even formed her own army out of her female friends at court.
Rani Laxmi Bai was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar at the early age of 7 to the Maharaja of Jhansi in 1842, and thus became the queen of Jhansi. After their marriage, she was given the name Laxmi Bai. The Raja was very affectionate towards her.
Jhansi Ki Rani
She gave birth to a son, Damodar Rao, in 1851. However, the child died when he was about four months old. After his death, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi adopted Anand Rao. Anand Rao was the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin, and was later renamed Damodar Rao. It is said that the Gangadhar never recovered from his son’s death, and died on 21 November 1853. When the Maharaja died, Rani Laxmi Bai was just eighteen years old, but never lost her courage and took up the responsibility of protecting the interests of Jhansi.
Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India at that time, tried to take advantage of the misfortune of Jhansi to expand the British Empire. The British did not accept Damodar Rao, as the legal heir of Rani Laxmi Bai and her late husband. In March 1854 Rani of Jhansi was granted an annual pension of 60,000 and was ordered to leave the Jhansi fort. She was firm on the decision not to give up the dominion of Jhansi to the British.
For strengthening the defense of Jhansi Rani Laxmi bai assembled an army of rebellions, which also included women. For this great cause she was supported by brave warriors like Gulam Gaus Khan, Dost Khan, Khuda Baksh, Sunder-Mundar, Kashi Bai, Lala Bhau Bakshi, Moti Bai, Deewan Raghunath Singh and Deewan Jawahar Singh. She assembled 14,000 rebels and organized an army for the defence of the city.
Rani Laxmi Bai and Indian Rebellion of 1857
On May 10, 1857 the Indian Rebellion started in Meerut. This began after the rumour that the new bullet casings for the Enfield rifles were coated with pork and beef fat and unrest began to spread throughout India. During this chaotic time, the British were forced to focus their attentions elsewhere, and Rani Laxmi Bai was essentially left to rule Jhansi alone, leading her troops swiftly and efficiently to quell skirmishes initiated by local princes.
Rani Laxmi Bai had always been hesitant about rebelling against the British. Her hesitation eventually came to an end when British troops arrived under Sir Hugh Rose and laid siege to Jhansi on 23 March 1858. An army of 20,000, headed by Tatya Tope, was sent to relieve Jhansi but failed to do so when his forces engaged with the British on 31 March. Three days later the besiegers were able to breach the walls and capture the city. The Rani escaped by night with her son, surrounded by her guards, many of them women.
Along with the young Damodar Rao, Rani Laxmi Bai decamped to Kalpi along with her troops, where she joined other rebel forces, including those of Tatya Tope. The two moved on to Gwalior, where the combined rebel forces defeated the army of the Maharaja of Gwalior and later occupied a strategic fort at Gwalior. However, on 17 June 1858, while battling in full warrior regalia against the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars in Kotah-ki Serai near the Phool Bagh area of Gwalior, she was killed at battle. The British captured Gwalior three days later. In the British report of the battle, General Sir Hugh Rose commented that the Rani, “remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance”, had been “the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders.”
Her father, Moropant Tambey, was captured and hanged a few days after the fall of Jhansi. Her adopted son, Damodar Rao, fled with his mother’s aides. Rao was later given a pension by the British Raj and cared for, although he never received his inheritance. Damodar Rao settled down in the city of Indore, and spent most of his life trying to convince the British to restore some of his rights. He and his descendants took on the last name Jhansiwale. He died on 28 May 1906, at the age of 58 years.