The Warrior Queen of Jhansi review – Indian rebellion epic gets feminist retelling

Devika Bhise as the widowed monarch Rani Lakshmibai shows the Victorian Brits, including Rupert Everett, what she’s capable of in this impressive drama

As Rani Lakshmibai (Devika Bhise), the titular queen in this colourful historical epic, slices and dices her way through a battlefield towards the end of the film, her foe Sir Hugh Rose (a spectacularly muttonchopped Rupert Everett) looks on with awe, intoning solemnly: “She’s like Joan of Arc!” The moment somehow sums the movie up, encapsulating The Warrior Queen of Jhansi’s signature blend of impressiveness, ridiculousness, and lustily on-the-nose messaging in one neat package.

Although the story of this young, legendary widowed monarch who became one of the leading figures in the Indian rebellion of 1857 has been told before in countless books, films, TV shows and even video games from all over the world, the makers of this international co-production have found a reasonably fresh way into the story, emphasising Rani as a proto-feminist, mother and leader of women.

Nevertheless, the screenplay still finds time to let her simper a bit at handsome British officer Ellis (Ben Lamb) whose fate is entwined with hers. Meanwhile, director-producer-costume-designer Swati Bhise, mother of the star, ensures that Rani always looks both fiercely martial and glamorous, seemingly armoured up in strings of pearls and jewel-bright silks as well as protective leather breastplates.

Bhise brings an undeniable charisma to the central role, and the rest of the cast is filled out by an eclectic mix of Indian character actors emoting fiercely and British thesps somewhat phoning it in – which applies as much to Everett as it does to Derek Jacobi and Jodhi May as Lord Palmerston and Queen Victoria, respectively, arguing over the effect of the rebellion back in London. Those ssections are like an experimental dry run for a prequel to The Crown, but on a less lavish budget. Still, altogether it’s a rousing, passionate bit of film-making on a reasonably epic scale, with a cast of hundreds deployed for some big dusty battle scenes, which are duly impressive.

• The Warrior Queen of Jhansi is on digital platforms from 14 December.


Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Battle at Lake Changjin review – China’s rabble-rousing propaganda war epic
China’s costliest film ever is a sporadically thrilling, historically dubious account of a Korean war standoff, with all the subtlety of a rocket launcher

Phil Hoad

19, Nov, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
BellBottom review – Akshay Kumar has flare as a Bollywood Bond
A look at Indian politics elevates this crowd-pleasing blockbuster, in which movie god Kumar lives out his super-spy fantasy

Mike McCahill

20, Aug, 2021 @11:22 AM

Article image
Burial review – alternative-history drama of the battle over Hitler’s corpse
Intriguing alt-history about a struggle to capture the dictator’s corpse is ill-served by vague characterisation and feeble action scenes

Phil Hoad

20, Sep, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
Ambush review – battle fatigued Nam actioner fights worn-out war tropes
This low-budget effort featuring phoned-in turns from Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Aaron Eckhart ticks off all the cliches while lacking a moral perspective

Phil Hoad

27, Feb, 2023 @11:00 AM

Article image
Condor’s Nest review – Tarantino-esque Nazi-hunt thriller heads for the pampas
Director Phil Blattenberger wears his love for the genre on his sleeve, but this allows him to outrun the film’s uneven execution and loose plot

Phil Hoad

13, Mar, 2023 @9:00 AM

Article image
Mulan review – Disney's dynamic girl warrior hits the small screen…
This terrific live-action remake cries out to be seen in cinemas

Wendy Ide

06, Sep, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Bharat review – frenetic Salman Khan epic throws everything in the mixer
Bollywood strongman’s Eid offering, following a boy separated from his family at partition, packs so much in it’s hard to care about the unification message

Mike McCahill

06, Jun, 2019 @11:30 AM

Article image
Mukkabaaz (The Brawler) review – Bollywood boxing epic takes on caste injustice
Vineet Kumar Singh stars as a low-caste boxer fighting for respect in Anurag Kashyap’s heavy-hitting social critique

Mike McCahill

11, Jan, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Mahabharata epic set to become India's most expensive movie ever
Randamoozham, starring veteran actor Mohanlal, will cost Rs 1,000-crore (£120m) and is to be funded by UAE-based billionaire BR Shetty

Gwilym Mumford

19, Apr, 2017 @1:24 PM

Article image
The Eight Hundred review – ear-rattling, breathtaking battle for 'Chinese Alamo'
One regiment’s symbolic and often suicidal defence of a warehouse in bombed-out Shanghai is the subject of this tub-thumping war epic

Cath Clarke

16, Sep, 2020 @3:00 PM