Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi - Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi (2019)
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The film begins with the birth of Manikarnika in the ghats of Varanasi. She is raised by the Bajirao in Bithoor and her father, Moropant. A young blossoming Manu is spotted by Jhansi’s minister, Dixit-Ji, slaying a tiger. Impressed by her feat, he proposes marriage between her and the King of Maratha ruled princely state of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao. The marriage is celebrated and attended by the Jhansi residents among whom a loud, spunky woman named JhalkarBai makes her way to the front along with her husband Puran Singh to take a peek at their new queen. Manikarnika’s name is officially changed to “Lakshmi Bai”
The newly wed king and queen spend time together and develop a strong bond. Queen Lakshmi Bai learns and refutes the traditional womanly duties and takes a keen interest in learning about the political atmosphere of Jhansi and the state of the country instead. She is outraged as she discovers that her husband, the King of Jhansi, has to bow his head to a British officer, Gordon. She strongly declines the act, enraging Gordon.
Jhalkari Bai’s calf 'Nandu' is abducted by some British officers prompting her to go after them only to get badly beaten up. When Lakshmi Bai learns about this cruelty, she confronts the officers speaking to them in fluent English to their surprise and announcing that all the livestock in Jhansi is the property of the king and will not be taken by the East India Company without permission. Lakshmi Bai returns Nandu and the two women develop a friendship. Amidst celebrations, Lakshmi Bai learns she is pregnant and is overjoyed. She gives birth to a boy, Damodar Rao.
Sadashiv Rao is seen plotting against the king with the British officers who have promised him a part of the estate when Jhansi is conquered by the company. Sadashiv is briefly seen side-eyeing a maid carrying holy water to the naming ceremony of the newborn, implying that he is behind the poisoning that eventually kills Damodar Rao and leaves the King weak and on his deathbed. To have an heir for the succession of the Jhansi throne, the King decides to adopt a child. Much to Sadashiv's dismay, his son is not adopted and instead, a civilian toddler that happens to run towards Lakshmi Bai is named the heir. His name is changed as Lakshmi Bai instinctively calls him Damodar. Sadashiv revolts and refuses to bow down to the future queen regent Lakshmi Bai and is banished from Jhansi.
A few months later, when the King Gangadhar Rao dies, the East India Company expects to apply the Doctrine of Lapse and annex the kingdom of Jhansi as it does not have a male heir. Lakshmi Bai does not relent and refuses to accept the practices of widowhood of those times. Instead she takes on the responsibility of the throne in order to fulfill her promise to her late husband. When the British force her to vacate the palace, she walks gracefully into the village and is welcomed and greeted by a massive parade of villagers led by Jhalkari Bai. This further enrages the British officers. The queen continues to live among the civilians quietly strategizing to reclaim her kingdom.
The company requests the British government to appoint Sir Hugh Rose to salvage the situation and remove Lakshmi Bai from the throne permanently. Knowing very well that she will soon be attacked again, Lakshmi Bai begins training her own army and especially women to fight. Meanwhile, Sadashiv conjures a mutiny resulting in the deaths of many innocent British women and children in addition to British officers and blames it on Rani Lakshmi Bai to prompt Hugh Rose to attack and crush her for good. On the way to Jhansi, Hugh hangs a girl simply because her name is Lakshmi.
During the siege of Jhansi, the Queen valiantly steps into the battle field to destroy the British cannons strategically placed in front of a temple. The strong castle walls keep the queen and her army safe until Sadashiv Rao divulges secrets about the castle to the British who finally break the siege and manage to storm the keep, resulting in the death of Gaus-Baba. Jhalkari Bai, despite discovering that she is pregnant acts as a decoy pretending to be the queen due to her striking resemblance to Lakshmi Bai. She manages to get all the British soldiers to follow her and distracts them enough for the queen to safely escape the castle with Damodar Rao. Jhalkari Bai sacrifices herself in a major gun powder explosion killing numerous British officers along with her.
Having lost everything but her love for the country, Lakshmi Bai escapes to Kalpi to reunite with Tantia Tope and other allies. She recaptures Gwalior and motivates the Maratha soldiers to participate in the independence war. With a heavy heart, Lakshmi Bai leaves Damodar Rao with her childhood friend and attendant, Kashi and leads an attack on the British army. Lakshmi Bai bravely sets out to attack the huge British army but then faces a certain defeat. At the end of the film, Rani Lakshmi Bai looks at Hugh and immolates herself to avoid being captured and executed by the British.