Kangana Ranaut tries to Reprise an iconic Role in but falls flat on her face
ow, Kanganaranaut doesn’t resemble the legendary Fearless Nadia — queen of the B- grade action thrillers of the 1930s and ’ 40s — from any angle. Evidently, that didn’t deter Vishal Bhardwaj from reincarnating Nadia as a rather whiny, lovelorn Jaanbaaz Julia — a purported showcase for Kangana — in his misconceived period romantic saga Rangoon.
Expensively mounted and lushly photographed, Rangoon didn’t exactly invite serpentine queues at the multiplexes. Initial trade reports stated the intensely- publicised extravaganza had opened to “poor collections”. Reviews and word- of- mouth buzz were mixed for the overlong film — 167 minutes, despite severe editing at the last minute.
Not surprisingly, Wadia Movietone — copyright holders of the Nadia films, which were made by JBH Wadia and Homi Wadia — sought to block Rangoon from release on schedule. A settlement was reached at the nth hour, according to insiders.
A bid to recreate the Fearless Nadia persona — a daredevil who could perform life- defying feats atop running trains and handle scores of bad guys with the crack of a whip — was attempted earlier by Kangana in the deservedly forgotten Revolver Rani ( 2014) directed by one Sai Kabir. The character of the gun- toting, fist- flashing female Robin Hood was alloyed to that of dacoit queen Phoolan Devi.
Under Bhardwaj’s direction, she perhaps hoped to come across as a more plausible and popular action heroine, this time without any allusions to Phoolan Devi. No such luck. If Rangoon can boast of anything, it’s a rather overwrought, inconsistent performance by Kangana, winner of three National Awards and lionised in the media as a woman who speaks her mind out loud and clear.
She was pungently critical of Karan Johar’s “nepotism” on his show Koffee with Karan. She continues to be derisive of Hrithik Roshan, whom she once described as a “silly- ex”. You’ve got to hand it to her, she generally doesn’t suffer her detractors gladly… which is fine.
The snag is that a perceptible overconfidence has seeped into her acting, as evidenced in Rangoon. She carroms between a snivelling, teary- eyed woman who must choose between her benefactor, a film producer played by Saif Ali Khan, and an upright soldier played by Shahid Kapoor, who’s Fear( less) Factor: 1 Fearless Nadia was the queen of B- grade films such as Diamond
snapshots: ( right) Kangana's character in Rangoon comes across as clueless; ( her role in Revolver Rani was similar to Jaanbaaz Julia; Fearless nadia on whom Kangana’s character is based in Rangoon secretly fighting for India’s freedom from the British.
She comes across as a woman who doesn’t quite know her mind ( or heart). Neither does she strike you as a fantastic dancer; nor is she impressive in her action moves, aided as they are majorly by special effects. Indeed, a leap on a train top, with Kangana wearing the famous Nadia mask, is strangely reminiscent of the opening stunt sequence of Dhoom 3.
By comparison, Fearless Nadia — born Mary Ann Evans ( 1908- 1996) in Australia to a British soldier and a Greek mother — was one of a kind, an original. On screen in Hunterwali, Diamond Queen, Miss Frontier Mail, Punjab Mail, Jungle Princess and Lutaru Lalna — to name a clutch of them — her persona had men grovelling for mercy at her feet. As a messianic heroine, she would articulate the cause of women’s rights. Moreover, her snappy dialogue crackled with impactful statements on freedom and equality for every caste, colour and creed. It’s only belatedly that Nadia has been saluted as the no- nonsense, emancipated heroine of Indian cinema in the pre- feminist era.
Off screen, Nadia ( the screen name was given to her by an Armenian soothsayer) was as feisty as they come. Trained in different skills like horse- riding, hunting, gun shooting and acrobatics, she travelled with a circus till she was spotted by JBH Wadia and cast in brief roles in Desh Deepak and Noore- Yaman. The audience loved her. Lead roles followed.
And it was only after decades that she married Homi Wadia in 1961. Lore has it that his mother disapproved of his marriage to a ‘ foreigner’. A larger- than- life and amiable figure at Bollywood parties towards her end years, Nadia passed away in 1996 at the age of 88.
The point is: does Rangoon catch at least the essence of the ‘ Hunterwali’ of yore? Alas, it doesn’t. Alright, so Vishal Bhard- waj did not intend the film to be her biopic. Still, the licence to borrow vital elements selectively from any real- life person and adapt it to suit the conveniences of a script is questionable if not debatable, isn’t it?
One last thing. Kangana Ranaut’s Jaanbaaz Julia act is a disappointing one, even if it is not compared to its role model. Here’s hoping that she returns with renewed force ( and not overconfidence) in her films under production right now: Hansal Mehta’s Simran and Ketan Mehta’s Rani Lakshmi Bai. Fingers crossed.
You’ve got to hand it to Kangana Ranaut, she generally doesn’t suffer her detractors gladly, which is fine. The snag is that a perceptible overconfidence has seeped into her acting, as evidenced in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon