Expectations have been running high for Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi which is hitting the theatres today. However, this is not the first time that Hindi Cinema has celebrated women in history. We take a look at some films that showcased powerful women.
Manikarnika is not the first attempt to bring the stirring tale of the brave young queen of Jhansi to life. In 1953, Sohrab Modi produced an extravaganza starring his wife, Mehtab. It was India’s first technicolour film and was released in English as The Tiger and the Flame. Modi spared no expense – the city of Jhansi was recreated on 5.5 acres and Oscar-winning cinematographer Ernest Haller (Gone with the Wind) was signed on. Mehtab also spent three months training to get ready for the film. Jhansi Ki Rani was lauded for being historically accurate.
The ill-fated love story of Roopmati of Mandwa and Sultan Wajid Khan (Baz Bahadur) of Malwa is a famous legend. The Sultan falls out of favour with Emperor Akbar, and is routed in battle by General Adham Khan. Rani Roopmati is left to defend herself and the throne. Nirupa Roy and Bharat Bhushan played the leads in this tale of star-crossed lovers.
The film starred Mala Sinha as Jahan Ara, the eldest daughter of Emperor Shah Jehan. It captured her doomed love for the poet, Mirza Yusuf Changezi (Bharat Bhushan). Other prominent characters slipped in and out of this standard love story that makes no pretence of being historically accurate. However, the music – by Madan Mohan – is still considered a classic score.
Meena Kumari starred in the eponymous role Meher-un-nisa, the young woman who became the wife of Emperor Jehangir (Pradeep Kumar). Noor Jehan was one of the most ambitious, charismatic and powerful women of the Mughal period. In fact, some say she was the real power behind the throne. The film is a dramatised version of their love story. It was criticised for reducing Noor Jehan to merely a love-struck wife. However, the wonderful music – composed by music director, Roshan – pulled the film along.
The only queen of the slave dynasty, Raziya Sultan, was also the costliest film made during the period. Hema Malini starred as the beleaguered queen, with Dharmendra playing Yakub, her Abyssinian slave. The film was directed by Kamal Amrohi and Khayyam composed the music – the melodies are still evergreen. However, the movie bombed at the box office.
The legend of the beautiful queen of Chittor who immolated herself is etched in the sands of Rajasthan. DeepVeer fans were in for a treat: Deepika Padukone starred as Rani Padmavati, while Ranveer Singh brought the Sultan Allauddin Khilji to life. Shahid Kapoor played Padmavati’s spouse, Maharawal Ratan Singh. Padmaavat faced many storms before storming the box-office to become one of the biggest hits of the year.
The Queen of Jhansi starring Kangana Ranaut as Rani Laxmibai is scheduled to be released on 25th Jan 2019. The movie is directed by Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, Kangana Ranaut and will feature Atul Kulkarni, Jisshu Sengupta, Suresh Oberoi and Danny Denzongpa as lead characters. It is said that the Queen of Jhansi is the real-life story of the warrior queen. She was the first woman in history to fight against the British and started the first war for Independence. The 22-year-old queen refused to cede Jhansi to the British. Dressed as a man, she fought a fierce battle and was killed in combat but her inspiring life story and fight against the British is an inspiring tale of bravery, valor and women's strength that has inspired generations after her and will inspire generations to come.