Winner of the Impact Award at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival 2019, Warrior Queen is the story of freedom fighter Rani Laxmibai, Queen of Jhansi, played by Devika Bhise. As one of the pioneers of the Indian Independence Movement, at the young age of 29 she led a fierce battle against the East India Company regime that at the time led the British rule on behalf of government in the northern and central parts of India.
Set in the year 1857, the wardrobe of East India Company’s private army, the regalia of the Indian royalty and, the attire of the remainder of the cast was visual, accurate and pleasing. The images of the desolate landscape so stark against this imagery, combined with the parallel scenes of the men in charge in England affirms the message given by this film, which is the unrepentant desire for profits and territory at all costs; wilful ignorance of the beauty within.
Another storyline embedded in the film is of Queen Victoria (Jodhi May) who, like British Officer Ellis (Ben Lamb), officially sit on the English side yet empathise with the “other’; they represent the changing tide of the English. The empathy of Queen Victoria in the film is due to the presence of her Indian servant; historically misrepresented yet necessary (she did not have any Indian servants until 1887) and, Officer Ellis, who empathises as scenes hint at a mutual crush between him and Rani. Nevertheless, both at the time of this battle of Jhansi were complicit and loyal to their duty.
The film has been co-written, co-produced and directed by Swati Bhise and is a well-known part of Indian history which has now been shared internationally. Having much dialogue in Hindi and Marathi throughout the film, displaying the happy marriage between Rani who at 15 wed Gangadhar, 31 years her senior and, exposing the atrocities of the British army with their pursuit for power, control and profit in India is an important dialogue to share and challenges Western bias. This is an important film.
Warrior Queen is currently screening as part of the British Film Festival, and is scheduled for encore sessions on 1st and 2nd of December, at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.