When it’s a mad, mad, mad world, trust Kangana Ranaut to pull out the stops.
As the trigger-happy ‘hero’ of Revolver Rani, the irrepressible lead actress dives head first into the deep end of the moral cesspool that writer-director Sai Kabir conjures up in his first released film.
Alka Singh of Morena is no ordinary hinterland hell-raiser. She flashes metallic bustiers, sports her trademark frizzy hairdo, and takes on a perceptibly darkened skin tone.
Kangana’s character is a fire-spewing marauder who nurses a secret desire to be a mother and a hausfrau. While she lets her gun do much of the talking on her behalf, she aspires for the simple joys of womanhood.
The film flits from the personal to the political, the emotional to the egregious, and the absurd to the deadly serious. For the most part, Revolver Rani hits the bull’s eye.
It is both uproariously funny and deeply disturbing: just the kind of material that is right up Kangana Ranaut’s street.
She doesn’t miss a single signage on the way, rampaging through a twisted narrative in which electoral contests and gang wars are indistinguishable from each other.
As Kangana bares the mangled soul of the eponymous heroine, she turns what is by no means a flawless film into a ballsy ballad of the Bhind-Morena badlands where dangerous plots are hatched, bullets are fired and blood is spilled at the drop of a hat.
Kangana, fresh from a Queen-size box office triumph, embraces this Rani with all the power that she can muster.
The result is a high-on-adrenaline heroine who thrives on overdrive, the kind that went out of vogue with Fearless Nadia and Hunterwali.
No, Revolver Rani, for all its retro style and ingredients, is certainly not that ancient in spirit and substance.
But it does draw heavily from old Hindi movie traditions while completely demolishing the dependence of the political thriller on conventional machismo.
Sai Kabir’s wicked take on the turbulent life of a hell’s angel in a man’s world is the cinematic equivalent of a smorgasbord.
Its nods are directed at diverse genres – noir, vengeance saga, comic caper, political satire, mock-heroic legend, and a good old tale of valour in the face of extreme danger.
These are vigorously stirred into an invigorating cocktail that stands out primarily because at the heart of it all is an unstoppable girl who pulls no punches.
The protagonist is a feisty political leader whose writ runs across town.
Her opponent, Udaybhan Singh (Zakir Hussain), and his bumbling men are constantly at the receiving end of Alka’s no-holds-barred political sorties.
They plan ways to eliminate her, but the girl and her principal adviser, the battle-scarred Balli Mama (Piyush Mishra), are far too crafty for the half-baked machinations of their adversaries.
The romantic interest is provided by a wannabe Bollywood actor Rohan Kapoor (Vir Das).
He strays into the life of Alka Singh hoping to further his chances of making it as a movie star. But that really is the end of the road for the guy.
It is a one-way street that leads either to the raging fire of hell or to the salubrious canals of Venice. Alka digs both, all things Italian and everything that smells of trouble.
Revolver Rani has a delightfully droll parallel track that takes aim at the manipulations of the media.
A newsreader appears at crucial points in the plot in the manner of a classic sutradhar and launches into over the top descriptions of the shenanigans of the powerful.
She takes recourse to distorted poetry, film lyrics and snatches of Hindi potboiler dialogue to make her point. Needless to say, she is all over the place.
The film also alludes to corruption in, and the human cost of, the indiscriminate acquisition of tribal land at the behest of big industry.
Mercifully, Revolver Rani is not a case of an overreaching writer-director biting off more than he can chew.
The screenplay stays on course even when the drama teeters on the edge of the outrageously bizarre.
Kangana lends a crackling and corrosively sharp edge to the central character of a tough-as-nails woman in a mug’s game.
Vir Das is a total misfit in this world. But that is exactly what he is meant to be – a man who is out of his depth in the rough and tumble of the hinterland.
Zakir Hussain is perfectly cast as the strongman who is forever on the back foot. He moves back and forth between bravado and bafflement with effortless ease.
Also noteworthy is Piyush Mishra’s characteristically consistent performance.
A Kangana Ranaut film seems to be increasingly acquiring the proportions of a genre unto itself.
It needs neither saleable male co-stars nor the tried-and-tested conventions of Bollywood blockbusters.
Revolver Rani may lack star power, but it has no dearth of firepower.