Earning the sobriquet of Bollywood in the 70s when it raced ahead of Hollywood’s number count, the Hindi film industry continues to entertain with its amazing production of movies every year. It’s a potpourri of box office hits, pathetic flops, critically acclaimed pieces, and those which meet with lukewarm responses. Besides attracting the regular Indian cine goer, the influence has been gradually filtering down to catch the attention of a global audience as well. Being the mother of an American born Bollywood buff son, I have no choice but to be apprised of latest happenings in that stream.
On a dull, gray evening, when it was raining cats and dogs, I happened to browse through Netflix and randomly decided to watch the movie Queen. Nourishing no great hopes in my mind, I had earlier opted out from going to the theater when it was released. In spite of the praise and acclaim the film had received, I never got to watching it for close to a couple of years. But contrary to my not very high expectations, the film did succeed in keeping me engrossed for the next 146 minutes. Released in the spring of 2014, this small budget film of about $2 million tells a unique story. The glitz and glamor, the candy-floss romance, and a gorgeous star cast are absent from this comedy-drama. What stands out is the theme that presents the Indian woman in a new light.
A young woman Rani with a low level of confidence is dumped by her fiancé a couple of days before the wedding. He calls off the alliance on the ground that her traditional up-bringing would be a deterrent in adjusting to the lifestyle he has cultivated by living abroad. Obviously heartbroken, Rani shuts herself in her room for a day to let out her emotions. She then comes up with an idea and asks her parents’ permission to go ahead with the pre-booked honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam all by herself. Reluctant at first, they finally agree.
The movie then focuses on how against all odds and obstacles, Rani enjoys her vacation in Europe. She meets a young woman of French-Spanish-Indian heritage in Paris who takes her on a tour around the city and who, in the course of their friendship, is instrumental in helping her build her confidence. Rani gains insight into the lives of three men from Japan, France, and Russia who she meets and shares her hotel room with in Amsterdam. With the numerous adventures Rani has in Paris and Amsterdam, she discovers the new woman in herself. Her newfound identity and the faith she starts having in herself give her the courage to turn down her fiancé who later on, realizing his mistake, expresses his desire to build a relationship with her once again. With composure, she maintains her self-respect by breaking off ties with the man who earlier had hurt her pride and dignity.
Queen breaks fresh ground by defining the Indian woman in a new avatar. The film is no eulogy on feminism, but it celebrates the power of a woman by portraying her as one who is capable of establishing her identity independent of marital bonds. A small town girl, the protagonist breaks away from the shackles of conservatism in search of her own happiness and freedom. After being abandoned by her fiancé on the threshold of her marriage, she does not not turn into a shattered woman; rather she gathers courage to face life on her own. From the quagmire of jilted love emerges a woman with a halo of confidence and moral strength. Queen is indeed a tribute to woman power. It offers lessons on learning to express oneself with grace and fortitude in order to stand strong and independent in the face of adversity. One may either love this movie or hate it, but one definitely cannot ignore the story it tells.