Kangana Ranaut hasn't been an easy actor to love. She's been onscreen for 8 years. She's won a National Award. She's worked in blockbusters like Krrish 3. But there's always something dark, edgy and volatile about her, both onscreen and off. She's been intriguing, mysterious but rarely flat-out endearing.
Queen changes that. Kangana plays Rani, the painfully sweet and naïve daughter of a halwai in Rajouri Garden. This is the sort of girl who believes that Indians are good at kissing because Emraan Hashmi does it so well in his movies; who will buy a vibrator at a sex shop in Amsterdam thinking it's a massage tool; who will be desperately anxious and happy to go on her honeymoon because she's never had, as she says, a lip to lip kiss.
The lip to lip kiss happens but it isn't quite how Rani imagined it. Vijay, her patronizing fiancé played nicely by Rajkummar Rao, dumps her days before the wedding. Rani who looks like she's never stepped beyond her mithai store in Rajouri Garden, then decides to go on her honeymoon alone. With mehndi on her hands and tears in her eyes, she takes off to Paris and Amsterdam.
Queen is about the metamorphosis of Rani. Director Vikas Bahl, who has also co-written this delightful story, doesn't expend too much energy on plot. Nothing much happens. Instead he creates moments, which slowly mold and reshape Rani into a woman with a smile and a spine. Yes, many of these are too-good-to-be-true, including a pole dance session with a prostitute in Amsterdam. In places, the film is meandering and indulgent. You might even lose your patience.
And yet, Kangana will hold you in place. The film hits a few dull spots but the actress doesn't hit a false note. This is a performance so artfully transparent and heartfelt that we feel that we know Rani like a close friend. The other characters - her parents, her plump brother with a killer hairstyle - are also nicely etched and perfectly cast. Post the success of Band Baaja Baaraat, middle-class Delhi culture has become a Bollywood staple. But thankfully, Bahl doesn't over-do it. He creates with a deft hand and a lot of affection.
Ultimately Queen is Kangana's triumph. I left the theater thinking about Rani and how the rest of her life would pan out. It's not often you do that with a Bollywood character. I'm going with three and a half stars.