The Rani in ‘The Warrior Queen of Jhansi’ Represents Universal Feminism

[Photo Credit: Nick Wall, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]

“If I told the story, to the world I felt, every young girl somewhere would say I too can do this, because the Rani could do it. I look at my life and if it got difficult I would say it is nothing compared to the Rani of Jhansi — and if she can do it, we can all do it.”

History can often provide lessons for people to grasp in the future, it can also provide hope or motivation for people with similar experiences to learn from. “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” tells the true story of the iconic Rani of Jhansi (Queen of Jhansi). The Rani represents not only a feminist icon in India but is a symbol of resilient feminism globally. Her legacy is still talked about today, 162 years later, despite not being on social media. This 24-year-old General is known for leading her people into battle against the British Empire and challenging one of the biggest corporations of her time, the East India Trading Company.

While many South Asians grew up with her as a household reference her historical story is often overlooked. The film, “The Warrior Queen of Jhansi,” brings the Rani’s story to life for audiences to understand and relate to her story. It uses historical references such as posts from Sir Hugh Rose’s journal which refer to the Rani as the best man amongst rebels and says that if the other boys were like her, the company would have had to leave India quite sooner. The Rani is described as a Joan of Arch and represents strength and resilience.

Devika Bhise as The Warrior Queen of Jhansi [Photo Credit: Nick Wall, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]

We, at Brown Girl Magazine, had the opportunity to speak with movie director Swati Bhise. She told us about her inspiration behind making the film, the challenges and the symbol of feminism the Rani represents. Bhise, a former history major, wanted to share the story because of its significance in history as well as symbolism for women.

I need to tell this story to the world. This is not myth, this is historical fact-backed even by her enemies, Bhise said. 

I do need this story to be shared with the younger women of today to know that there are some women in this world, who are real wonder women. She would then be a symbol of someone who has done it, so young women can say I too can do it, if she could do it against all odds, so that was the inspiration behind the film, she added.

Bhise spent most of her 20s studying British and Indian history, she told us. Growing up her mother always referenced the iconic Rani of Jhansi, with comments like “who do you think you are Jhansi of Rani, taking on everyone?” Bhise expressed that her career always revolved around women from performing the stories of women through dance to being involved in women’s empowerment and education. Telling this story, she said was something she always planned to do.

For me, it was always women topics, women education, women theater. I wanted to do a play on the Rani of Jhansi and then I realized I wouldnt have as much outreach, as I would with a film.

Her background in dance and arts allowed her to naturally write the script and put together all parts of the film. As a solo artist performing for many years, Bhise acquired the skills to not only dance but write her own scripts, choreograph and implement performances. Co-writing the script with her daughter, Devika Bhise and Olivia Emden she said was a wonderful experience.

Swati Bhise and Devika Bhise on the set of The Warrior Queen of Jhansi [Photo Credit: Nick Wall, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]

Bhise shared that she wrote the initial script as the one who did the research and was later joined by Devika Bhise and Emden who “tweaked the script for international sensibilities of younger people.” Having trained her daughter as a classical dancer for many years, Bhise shared they already had a working relationship. She wanted her daughter to work on the script and as the lead actress understand what a woman of a similar age would express and portray.

I would tell her, a woman who carries around daggers with emeralds and rubies and who walks into court in pants and boots- what do you think she’s shy? So you know, we would develop on her character that someone who talks like this, what else would she say? What would she do?

One of the biggest challenges she faced working on the script, she told us, was portraying a character without flaws. Bhise shared that she sent the script to multiple friends and filmmakers asking them to let her know what she was missing and the majority expressed the same thing.

“They kept saying- you’ve made her look too great can you find something weak about her and I would say I am struggling.”

Devika Bhise as The Warrior Queen of Jhansi [Photo Credit: Nick Wall, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]

Bhise shared that from her research she saw the Rani was very disciplined and she could not just make things up, she was portraying history.

The hard part was trying to find something to show a side of her weakness because I realized when I was working on her, she never showed her weakness. She always put up a very strong front,” Bhise said.

“She had to look around her and say this is up to me, I cannot have anyone push me around and I will defy if I have to.

When asked how she embodied the character in her life Bhise shared that she too was a rebellious young girl. She spoke about asking questions and wanting answers and how the Rani faced every difficulty with grace, which inspired her. She told us how people associate Queens with having wealth but the Rani was an ordinary girl, who had lost her mother very young. She was raised by her father and spent time riding horses, fencing and climbing elephants as an unruly and curious young girl, who even taught herself multiple languages.

I believe that for me to embody her spirit I would like to think back at the fact that that she had a very difficult life but she was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a warrior.

I just admired that this young girl didn’t have a helicopter mom telling her, ‘did you do your homework or have you done that?’ The fire was there she did all of this and marries to a much older man who dies, even her child dies. Then she takes on the world’s largest coprroaton, the East India Company, this was so mind boggling to me.

Ben Lamb and Devika Bhise in The Warrior Queen of Jhansi. [Photo Credit: Nick Wall, Courtesy of Roadside Attractions]

Bhise hopes audiences will resonate with the film and feel a connection to the Rani. She spoke of how she wants audiences to remember that there are a lot of women in history who have lived outstanding but difficult lives and have done something which has left a legacy, the Rani being only one of them. 

I  hope everyone can identify with the Rani because there are so many parts of her life that you’ll see in the film, that I believe every woman would say, I have felt this or gone through this.

[Read Related: Feminism in Bollywood: Where are the Women Behind the Camera?]

When asked what advice she would give to young South Asian women, who too hope to follow her path of being in a creative field, Bhise said to remember everyone has their demons and when difficulty arises to never give up or say “you cannot do this.” She spoke of her experience coming to the US in 1982 without the Internet or knowing anyone and how despite there being no market for Indian classical dance she took every opportunity she could to make her career. Bhise said,

My job was to educate rather than sit back and to try every single door.

She shared that she taught at Columbia in the Dodge Fitness Center and used every opportunity to put herself out there and perform. From taking early subways to traveling across the country she shared it was all a two-way learning experience.

 I’m a sharer, so I want every South Asian young women to go out there and say I have no limits. I can reach whatever I want and nobody will tell me what to do or put me down.

“The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” is in theaters Nov. 15.

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By Aysha Qamar

Aysha Qamar is a writer, poet and advocate based in the tri-state area. She currently serves as BGM’s News and … Read more ›

‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’: A Perfect K Jo Showcase Celebrating the Filmmaker’s 25 Years in Cinema

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.

“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.

The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.

K Jo

Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.

[Read Related: ‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra]

Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.

There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra,  and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.

K Jo Rocky aur Rani

Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.

Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.

Stills Courtesy of Media Global House



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By Anushka Suharu

Anushka Suharu is a British Indian journalist, with a Masters in Interactive Journalism (City, University of London) and a BA … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Managing Editor at Brown Girl Magazine, Nida has worked and written for several publications in a journalism career spanning almost … Read more ›

Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi on ‘Ghoomer’

“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.

“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.

[Read Related: 5 Tidbits About Bollywood Royalty Abhishek Bachchan For His 41st Birthday!]

Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.

And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.

Take a look!

The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global. 

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›