REVIEW: THACKERAY and MANIKARNIKA
The first four major releases from Bollywood in 2019 have two features in common. The first one is all of them are somewhat based on real life incidents and personalities; the second feature is that all of them are directed by new directors in Bollywood. Another important feature in three of these is the not so subtle wake-up call for different kinds of nationalism. It is also in many ways, a statement that we have had enough of taking passive bystander stands and the time is ripe to take an aggressive approach even if it means taking up surgical strikes, raising the sceptre of parochialism or glorifying women warriors. Therefore, these movies need to be reviewed not on whether they constitute well made cinema without flaws, but on whether they have succeeded in evoking “patriotic” or “nationalistic” feelings in the minds of viewers. URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE came out both as a well-made cinema as well as the feelings it evoked.
THACKERAY is bold and unpretentious, just like its protagonist. It is a biopic, in the true sense of the word and the part is brilliantly essayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. There is no tinge of apology anywhere in the movie, for its painting its character in favourable hues, although the choice of using black and white by the director (Abhijit Panse) for nearly half the movie seems to indicate that there is an attempt to present an unbiased view of incidents and personalities. And like in URI and THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER, we are introduced to look-alikes of political personalities of those times without making them appear like caricatures. The feelings that get evoked when one watches THACKERAY are more parochial than nationalistic and that to some extent dilutes the overall impact of the movie.
MANIKARNIKA, on the other hand, while having objectives of glorifying the valour and sacrifice of the Indian womenfolk against the enemy, looks and feels like an Amar Chitra Katha presented on the screen. The responsibility for this squarely rests on Vijayendra Prasad, the person who brilliantly scripted the BAAHUBALI series. Even the dialogues by Prasoon Joshi sound rather bookish. Kangna Ranaut, delivers very ably as Laxmi Bai, but I would rate Nawazuddin’s performance as better. Kangna wields the megaphone as well, along with the well-known Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, an award-winning director of Telugu films. The best part of MANIKARNIKA is the outstanding background and music score (Sanchit and Ankit Balhara) and the songs by Shankar Ehsan Loy.
THACKERAY: 3.5 out of 5
MANIKARNIKA: 3 out of 5