What is Up With the Manikarnika Trailer?

This film continues to be weird and rough and broken. And yet, it is still supposed to release in a month! Headline is, there was a Grand Trailer Launch about 5 hours ago, press and stars and all, and then the trailer hit youtube and industry folks tweeted it. And then the trailer was pulled from youtube by the studio and is no longer available and no one knows why. What the heck????

There’s a good chance the trailer will be back up in a few minutes, I’ll add it to the post when it is. But the point of a trailer launch is to ride that wave of social media, get it out there and then get everyone tweeting the link and the hashtag simultaneously, drive it to 100 million views as fast as possible, then make the number of views into the story, and so on and so forth. Stopping the train halfway makes no logical sense and reeks of the kind of unplanned impulsive decisions and unexpected problems that have troubled this film since the beginning. And also, it’s just WEIRD! And I am really really curious why it happened, and secondly what lie they will tell to explain why it happened.

Trailer launch seemed a bit odd too. It was all about Kangana, which is okay, she is the only big name in the film and it is very much a star film. Her parents were there, she said she feels they gave birth to her so she could play this role. Fine, okay. She said it was her decision to release on Republic Day. She said she loved directing far more than acting even though it was much harder work. She said the script never changed and she gives full credit to the writers (as in, I was just following the script, not taking over the movie).

Really, I think it was just odd because Kangana in one person had to combine so much. They had her arrive in character, so she is representing the hero of the film. And she had to be the primary spokesperson as the biggest name attached. And she also had to answer questions from the perspective of the director. She was wearing three hats (Rani Lakshmibai, Actress Kangana, and Director Kangana).

Prasoon Joshi was there as the lyricist (curious to see what he ends up doing with the film as censor), and Shankar Madhavan as one of the composers (always exciting to have another Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy soundtrack). So, a bit of a strange exclusion to not have Krish, the original director, present. But, okay, I am sure he is rushing through post-production work down south for his NTR biopic.

And then the trailer launched. And promptly was pulled back to shore and put in dry dock for a bit longer.

Oh oh!!!! I just checked and it is up again! WHY????

Okay, so now I get to talk about the trailer itself. First, I am very disturbed by the magicalizing of recent history. Making her into some kind of warrior goddess. Doing the Bhansali. At least with Padmavat, it was based on fiction. This is an actual real historical figure that has multiple primary sources describing her and her actions. I don’t like her story being turned into this “magical flowing locks killing a tiger” person. Somehow, it feels disrespectful, like what she really was wasn’t enough, we have to make her more than that.

And less than that. I miss the strategy! The politics! The discussions between allies and so on! And the grander sweep, Jhansi wasn’t the only place fighting this war, this was part of a larger national revolt. Oh, and also the compromises, she was a loyal ally of the British, writing to them for help and authority, until they betrayed her, at which point she allied with a group of fellow rulers and rebels.

Also, this is SOOOOOO violent!!!! Really disturbingly so. Especially considering how poor the CGI is. That shot of her sword cutting through a man’s head didn’t make me pump my fist and go “awesome!”, it made me cringe a little because it felt like they thought I would be so excited by the idea of a head being split that I wouldn’t care if it was shot well or not. If that makes sense? Like the very idea of violence is so intoxicating, I don’t care about the execution?

Oh, and the other thing with the trailer, which could just be a choice on the part of the marketing team, there is almost no dialogue, and it is entirely Kangana focused. I still don’t have a good idea who Atul Kulkarni is playing, or Ankita Lokhande, or Danny Denzongpa. But the title of the film is Manikarnika, maybe the thinking is to build up the central character and the fight scenes and leave it for the actual film to deal with the other characters.

And, just in case you didn’t catch the Hindi, she referenced both “Bharat” (Hindu term for India, avoiding the more secular “Hindustan”) and “Shivaji” (Hindu Maharashtra warrior and ruler who fought the Mughals and has become a symbol of Hindutva, even though historical Jhansi was an ally of the Mughals and had nothing to do with Maharashtra or Shivaji).


29 thoughts on “What is Up With the Manikarnika Trailer?

  1. I agree with you completely that the way the movie mythologizes Jhansi is strange. It’s saying that the only reason she was so brave and tough is because she had this magical quality and from a recent biography I read, it is definitely clear that she was a pretty smart political operative until she was backed into a corner and had to fight.

    I like Bhansali films but this does look like a cheap imitation of his style and the “Bahabuli” effect. It does have the potential to be a more interesting failure than Thugs, though. I never discount Kangana completely and it does look like there are some interesting set pieces, fancy monologues, and pretty costumes and cinematography.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Another thing that is a little odd is that she is positioned (at least in the trailer) as unlike any other Princess/Queen. My impression is that future Queens in India were taught politics and diplomacy as part of learning their future “job”, and also some basic fighting skills. Just like future Queens everywhere else. The gender lines weren’t quite as firm and unbroken as we might think. That was one (of many) things I liked about Jodha-Akbar, it indicated that the Queens and princesses did have some grasp and involvement in politics and that was expected (remember part of the reason Akbar was distant from his mother is because she was working all the time, touring provinces and stuff). I can accept that Manikarnika was particularly adept at both fighting and politics and that made her unusual. But I don’t necessarily like this idea that she is The One, the only female royal in all of India to be able to fight or lead or anything, thanks to her magical burning fire of love for Bharat.

      I can already sense I will hate this movie (and I am guessing you and all my other regular readers know I will as well). But I will try to keep an open mind and see if it ends up being a situation like Padmavat where I hate everything about the film, but still have to acknowledge that it is an entertaining and interesting film.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 8:28 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • What would be more interesting to me is to see a much more realistic, grittier portrayal with scenes juxtaposed of a far away Queen Victoria reacting to what was going on. Two queens in extraordinary circumstances. No whitewashing of the history though like in Victoria and Abdul or a regressive view of female leaders in political battle like in the new Mary, Queen of Scots either.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s reminding me of back in college when we talked about the early Suffrage movement, there was this tactic used by both sides of saying women were naturally too pure and magical and holy to get into politics. The Suffragettes flipped that by saying the womanly wise voice would make the world a better place. Anyway, that vision seems to have lasted down to today, we have so many heroic female leaders who are drawn as above politics, living life on a higher plane. I don’t like it! And it was part of the real Jhansi Ki Rani’s problems (from what I know), everyone loved her as a figurehead and icon, but her allies ignored her voice in tactical discussions.

          On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 10:05 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. I don’t know about you, but in the trailer it seemed like Kangana lacked the gravitas for the role? I just wasn’t convinced by the character in what we’ve been shown and it might be because of the focus on violence instead of dialogue and some kind of exposition. It just shows her at different points of life but it just feels …off? Also did you catch that shot when they introduced her as the young princess and she jumped onto that guys back and onto the elephant with a sword? Because that just straight up reminded me of Bajirao.

    Liked by 1 person

    • From the trailer (which isn’t everything), it looks like they are selling the character as more of a warrior maiden, doing it all in service of the country. Instead of a leader who inspires others to serve her. Which might be part of the lack of gravitas? Kangana isn’t supposed to play the strong respected ruler of the kingdom, but instead more of a warrior than anything else.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 8:30 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  3. The last scene with Kangana cutting soldier’s head is disturbing. I don’t need to see this, seeing the blood splitting was enough. And, I didn’t notice it earlier, but after reading many comments on your blog, damn Kangana’s voice can bo so annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh good, it’s not just me. I like violence on film, I just rewatched Bujjigaddu and I still LOVE that. But I don’t like violence just for the sake of violence. I can appreciate the dramatic choice to have a moment of clear violence, loads of movies where you have a clean strike of a head chop and that’s fine. But that particular shot felt more like playing into baser instincts, wanting to give people the “treat” of a new form of body horror, than any dramatic choice. I would have found a beheading in that moment just as dramatically effective and a lot less lingering and needlessly explicit.

      I never noticed Kangana’s voice either! Until this particular role, when suddenly it just isn’t right. It was perfect for Queen, and even in Rangoon (which I hated) it kind of made sense for her character to talk like that. But in this film it has this sudden disconnect between character and dialogue delivery that keeps distracting me.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 9:17 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. She just sounds weird for this role and I generally just think her voice is distinctive but her nasal-y quality is coming through…and the dubbing was off or something in the trailer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is a disturbing insertion, especially since beheading has re-emerged as an element of modern violence. Who needs this kind of reminder/inspiration/titillation? Is the trailer for all the people who watch beheadings on YouTube. {{shudder}}

        Liked by 1 person

    • Probably a wise decision. Based on the trailers, they are selling it as just an orgy of violence. There’s supposed to be a love story and songs and stuff too, but it’s not what the trailers are showing us.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 9:21 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Something that you aren’t aware of Indian history is that while the Marathas originated in present day Maharashtra, they had expanded and by mid 18th century held most of present day North India. This is the Maratha empire at its peak in 1760 AD.

    So much so that the third battle of Panipat (which happens to be near New Delhi) was fought between the Marathas and Afghans, while the Mughals only nominally held Delhi. Both Lakshmi Bai and her husband descended from the Maratha clans of Maharashtra, whose empire was founded by Shivaji and it is only natural that they would evoke his name in battle.


      • Right.
        Also Lakshmi Bai, Tatia Tope, Nana Saheb, all Maratha nobility and spearheads of the first war of Indian independence allying with the Mughals (to the extent of naming the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar the emperor of independent India) was an anomaly, not the norm. It was a key takeaway for Hindu Muslim relations in India in the face of a foreign enemy. So, no the rulers of Jhansi weren’t historical allies of the Mughals. They are descendants of the Marathas.
        And Margaret, please google Shivaji. It is upsetting that he has become a symbol of the radical Hindutva, while actually he was a progressive and liberal, while being deeply religious personally.
        I’m waiting for you to correct you statements about the rulers of Jhansi being nowhere related to the Marathas and being allies of the Mughals before 1857. Or you could engage in a discussion, if you believe otherwise and we could compare sources. Choosing to ignore a facts in favour of building a political rhetoric, is very unlike you.
        And this part about the name of my country is subjective. The name Bharat originated from Hindu Mythology for sure. Hindustan has Persian origins and was primarily adopted by the Muslim rulers, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals. I would be the last person to recommend usage of one over the other. Point is both names have religious origins. So I don’t know where you gets this idea that only ‘Hindustan’ is supposed to be secular and ‘Bharat’ isn’t. Personal preferences aside, we’re talking about a mid 19th century Hindu ruler here. Of course she would use the name Bharat and for her to say Hindustan would be unusual, unless it is to make a point. Just as much as, if a Mughal emperor were to say Bharat.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Generally, I don’t like historical films. I can’t forget they are based on true stories, and the way history is changed to fit a filmmaker’s agenda (whether that is making a political point, or just making their star look good) really really bothers me. I would far prefer something like Lagaan or Veer which is straight up openly made up to the faux-history films that pretend to be teaching people the “real story” but aren’t. I also really hated Spielberg’s Lincoln, for instance. And The King’s Speech. Jodha-Akbar is really special to me because it is one of the few historicals I straight up love.

      I hated Bajirao, I hated Padmavat, I even hated Rangoon. And Devdas. And Mahanati. Really, anything historical will have a hard time getting past my barriers. The past isn’t some fantasy world you can bend to your own vision as a director and propaganda needs! It’s a real place where real things happened and people really died and lived and suffered, and don’t disrespect their memories! Not unless you have a super good reason for it to save suffering and death today.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 11:11 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  5. 1) Atul Kulkarni is clearly Tatya Tope
    2) Jhansi is allied with Marathas not Mughals. Where was the Mughal empire except old Bahadur Shah Zafar who is a emperor in name only, limited to Delhi!! Marathas have already defeated them a century ago.
    3) Why would Maratha born Manikarnika use the word ‘Hindustan’?
    4) The war being violent is Krish’s trademark. Satakarni is a good example. Also 1857 rebellion is lot more violent than a regular war because of the atrocities perpetrated on civilians.
    5) One of the reasons why this rebellion failed is that it is not organized. You won’t see many allies or emissaries wheeling and dealing. There was no strategy except small princely states rebelling when they heard of rebellion else where.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hate to bring politics into this but lets not forget that Kangana is a staunch supporter of the right wing BJP party and their leader Mr Modi. If you look at the trailer with this fact in your head it is easy to see why Kangana chose to distort history and completely hone in on the Hindutva ideology with this film. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cash inflows from the BJP into this film. Unfortunately the BJP after its development agenda failed has largely stuck to using communal hatred against minorities to fuel their election campaigns. This film obviously links in with the much larger picture where these right wing activists are building massive statues in the name of Hindu pride in states like Maharashtra, changing the names of cities like Allahabad, declaring the Taj Mahal a Hindu monument and actively practicing in rewriting history wether it be defaming secular leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi (The BJP does not have a celebrated history like that of the Congress party and are hell bent on tarnishing that legacy). I’ve seen tid bits of a proposed biopic of the previous congress party leader Manmohan Singh credited by many to have transformed India’s economy by Anupam Kher who will obviously put out a very biased propaganda like movie as he too has close affiliations with the BJP and his wife a BJP member. Not to mention the upcoming movie “Uri” starring Vicky Kaushal which obviously commemorates the surgical strikes which the BJP likes to use as an advertisement campaign. All of this is done to drum up support for the 2019 elections, the BJP is an extremely tech savvy political party that uses massive amounts of digital data, social media and potentially even film now to attract the masses. Unfortunately this does not bode well for Bollywood which has always maintained a liberal, secular stance when it came to politics. I hope the BJP stops its assault on Indian institutions, it does not bode well for the hard won Indian democracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Trailer looks meh to me.
    They’re trying to hype it as the next Bahubali but i just don’t think Kanguna has the star power to drive a film like that. And delays and controversies normally work against a film. The story also doesn’t have much going for it…its so well known and already been done on TV.
    The only hope is if the story / writing content is ~really~ good.

    Kangana’s voice really threw me off in the trailer! :0
    I couldn’t even focus on what she was saying because i was trying to figure out if it was actually her voice or dubbed. She has a bery distinctive voice (watch her famous KWK episode for reference)
    In some parts it sounds like her underlying voice but different (not as sweet/sing song). Seems like they definitely altered it to make it suit the character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now you have me thinking about Bahubali, and Bajirao and Padmavat too. All of them were truly ensemble pieces. Each lead actor had equal star power going into it, and each character had their own moments in the script. Ranveer was maybe slightly more of a focus in Bajirao, Prabhas slightly more in BB (but Anushka and Rana were right behind him). This movie only has one actor of the top level, and the trailer implies that the whole focus of the film will be on her character.

      That’s really hard to pull off! As a writer, as a director, as an actress. Especially when it is a well-known story. Unless Kangana can keep us riveted to the screen every second, the movie is going to fall apart.

      On Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 3:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

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