Direction: Sai Kabir
Actors: Kangana Ranaut, Vir Das, Piyush Mishra
Revolver Rani establishes Kangana Ranaut as the most fearless actress in Bollywood. After winning our hearts as the achingly naïve dumped bride in Queen, she does a 360-degree flip in this film. As the psychotic, murderous, sexually ravenous dacoit turned politician Alka Singh, she is frankly ugly, literally and figuratively.
Alka is the lone woman warrior in the Chambal region, a land overrun by corruption, misguided machismo and guns. Naturally, she has to shout louder and shoot harder than the boys. It’s a startling performance that goes almost over the top, but Kangana reins herself in and expertly balances madness and vulnerability. She alienates and yet keeps us invested.
The people around Alka are nasty too. Quite deliberately, debutant director Sai Kabir gives us no one to root for. Revolver Rani is co-produced by Tigmanshu Dhulia and echoes his own films, like Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, in which scorpion-like characters try to out-sting each other. On Alka’s team is a selfish, philandering, greedy boy toy named Rohan, played very well by Vir Das. The performance to watch out for is Piyush Mishra as Alka’s Machiavellian uncle, a man willing to destroy her life to preserve their power. Kabir, who has also written the film, piles on the betrayals and counter-betrayals. There are goon-like politicians, sting operations, a hilariously hyperactive TV news anchor, and relentless shootouts — just in case you forget that the film was called Revolver Rani.
Some of this works and some of it doesn’t. But what keeps Revolver Rani together are the performances and the sly humour. I particularly enjoyed the two testosterone-filled duffer politicians whose only aim is to kill Alka. If you like uplifting, cheerful cinema, then this isn’t the movie for you. But if, like me, you can enjoy bad people doing bad things, then Revolver Rani will be fun.