If you heed the advice contained in one of the songs in Sai Kabir’s Revolver Rani (“I am not bad, I am brutal my baby/ I will eat you like noodle my baby/ Have a doubt go and Google”), you will soon find yourself reading about the filmmaker K.S.R. Doss. He made a string of heroine-oriented action films through the ’70s and ’80s across different film industries, including Bollywood. A number of these also bore the word Rani — Rani Aur Jaani, Rani Mera Naam, Rowdy Rani .
Like its B-Grade ancestors, Revolver Rani celebrates the trashy, the raucous and the bizarre. At the heart of the story is Alka Singh (Kangana Ranaut), an impetuous and infertile politician, who believes power flows through the barrel of a gun in the badlands of Chambal. She is a votary of the ballot too, but has recently lost power to Udaybhan Tomar (Zakir Hussain).
His minions want to avenge the death of a relative at the hands of Alka, but having just come to power, Udaybhan advises caution. So, they choose to kidnap Rohan Mehra (Vir Das), a struggling Bollywood actor, who the otherwise formidable Alka has a weakness for. She rescues him and, in order to satisfy her voracious sexual appetite, decides never to let him go. The fashionable Alka wears the pants in the relationship, and the reversal of gender roles is conveyed in fairly bald terms. In one such instance, Rohan attempts to escape her clutches in a sari.
After a sting operation on Tomar, masterminded by Balli (Piyush Mishra), her uncle and speech writer, Alka finds herself on the cusp of power again, until the news of her pregnancy throws everyone off, and a by-turns hilarious and poignant game — entailing multiple marriages, religious conversion, sting videos and forced drugging — ensues. Alka, with her newfound maternal instinct, decides to abandon the way of the gun, and leave the badlands for ‘Benice’. For different reasons, neither Balli nor Rohan are prepared for this transition, and they both go to extreme lengths to prevent this from happening.
Through Alka’s change of heart, the film, perhaps unwittingly, throws up fascinating questions about the relationship between gender and power, which it does not satisfactorily answer.
Given its uneven tone and its disdain for plotting, Revolver Rani essentially becomes a succession of set pieces. The highlights of the film are its cheeky news broadcasts, which interrupt the proceedings to comment humorously on the developments in Alka’s love life. It also leans on Rohan’s helpless captivity periodically for laughs.
It was always going to be difficult to live up the promise of Queen , and Kangana doesn’t quite manage to slip into either of her two avatars: as a femme fatale or a doting to-be mother. Despite the gloriously over the top nature of the film,
Piyush Mishra manages to turn in a subtle performance as the scheming uncle. Vir Das, whose character is dubbed Etawah ka Aamir Khan in the film, is idle for most of the film, but appears genuinely helpless when required.
Like Revolver Rani , Kaanchi: The Unbreakable is a women’s empowerment fable, and unlike the former, what is presented to us as empowerment here seems quite plausible. Unfortunately, there is not much more to be said about the film, which follows the template of “entertainment with a social message”.
Subhash Ghai would have us believe that the film depicts nothing less than a battle for the soul of India. He goes quite far to convince us that this is indeed the case — ticking all the boxes of what would make for such a movie. There is a village that is about to be acquired, illegally, for redevelopment; those acquiring it represent the worst of political and commercial interests, and those trying to save it are a combination of the sons and daughters of army personnel, led by a young girl.
There is a band of anti-corruption crusaders too.
One could probably say the film has its heart in the right place, but the treatment of these elements is so ham-fisted that one begins to doubt even that much.
Kaanchi (Mishti) is a resident of Koshampa, an idyllic village in the hills, which is in the process of being redeveloped by the Kakdas — the businessman J.B. (Rishi Kapoor) and the politician Shyam (Mithun Chakrabarty). Binda (Kartik Aaryan), who runs a military training school, is at the forefront of the resistance to the project, and when the Kakdas arrives with Shyam’s artist son Sushant (Rishabh Sinha) in tow to convince residents about the merits of the project, things spiral out of control.
Sushant falls in love with Kaanchi, who is about to get married to Binda, and when his love isn’t reciprocated, he bumps Binda off. Seeing how the murder is dressed up as an accident and the complicity of the local administration in the process, Kaanchi vows to take matters into her own hands. Her family and village are too weak willed, she says, and heads to Mumbai to exact her revenge.
In Mumbai, her outrage finds vent in the popular anti-corruption movement, but by the time they are able to incriminate their common target — the Kakdas — the revenge plot has moved through a succession of parties, and become indistinguishable from a costume drama.
The debutante Mishti tries hard to convey that she is on a mission, but fails despite her earnest shrieks and shouts.
Rishi Kapoor generates a few laughs as a sleaze, and Mithun, as the politician who has mastered the art of deception, brings some gravity to the proceedings, but despite their best efforts, the film is a snoozefest.