Sunday 9 April 2017

At the BFI: "Queen"

A crowdpleaser that posits new directions for the Bollywood romcom, Vikas Bahl's Queen opens with codependent small-town girl Rani (Kangana Ranaut) being dumped by no-good fiance Vijay (Rajkumar Rao) on the very eve of her wedding. After retreating into bittersweet memories of how these two got so close (and yet so far), the film begins to propose ways of moving its heroine forward - chiefly by dispatching her, alone, on the European honeymoon she was meant to share with the man of her dreams. On the streets of Paris - and under the sisterly influence of freewheeling single mum Vijayalakshmi (a vivacious Lisa Haydon), who Rani's grandma, looking on via Skype, takes for an adult movie star - she'll undergo the first stage in a much-needed process of liberation; degrees of fish-out-of-water comedy ensue, as Rani discovers European mores are very different from how things are done back home, where a girl is simply supposed to shut up and settle down.

In the guiding hands of screenwriter Anvika Dutt, it is, however, very much about a girl, and watching Rani throw off her dowdy cardies, let down her hair and learn to stand on her own two feet makes this a more than useful platform for the approachable, empathetic Ranaut. Some of its material comes by the yard, as romcom standard - so, yes, there's a makeover sequence, and some very broad knockabout around the sex shops of Amsterdam with the multicultural buddies Rani makes in a hostel - yet Dutt and Bahl remain capable of narrative and visual sophistication: it's an effective move to deploy the Eiffel Tower not as touristy marker but psychological signifier, looming over Rani as surely as the shadow of megaprick Vijay - and heartening that our heroine ultimately gets to make a decision of a kind that only a truly progressive and open-minded film industry would permit.

Queen screens in NFT2 on Tue 11 at 5.50pm, and in NFT3 on Fri 28 at 8.20pm.  

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