Jhansi Si Rani (1952)

 

 

Director:     Sohrab Modi. 

Starring:      Mehtab (Rani Laxmibai / Manu),  Sohrab Modi (Raj Guru),  Mubarak (Raja of Jhansi),  Ulhas (Ghulam Ghaus Khan),  Ram Singh (Sadashiv Rao),  D.K. Sapru (General Sir Hugh Rose),  Baby Shikha (Child Rani),  Anil Kishore (Lieut. Henry Dowker),  Kamalakant (Moropant),  S.B. Nayampalli (Panditji),  Michael Shea (Major Eliss),  Dar Kashmiri,  Marconi (Colonel Sleeman).

in the 1800s, first native revolt against the British in India

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is the summary of the entire movie (except an non-viewable section of the DVD).

Jhansi is a happy and prosperous kingdom in India, founded by Maharashtra’s powerful Peshwas Baji Rao, the first to be self-sufficient and free. But today its throne is lying empty. Because after the demise of Raghunath Rao Bhav four people stake their claim to the throne. And until the East India Company accepts someone’s right among these four it will lie empty like this. Today only Jhansi’s Royal Teacher comes near this royal throne to offer flowers to the tribute of its past glories. The aim of his life is to venerate this throne.

The East India Company declares that Gangadhar Ro is the rightful heir to the thone. Col. Solomon comes to offer congratulations to His Highness. With the new King is his nephew Sada Shiv. But to become King, His Highness will have to agree to keep the East India Company’s army in his kingdom. And he will pay 227,458 rupees annually as salary to the company’s government. In addition, all of Jhansi’s army will be added to the company’s governments’ army.

The servant Tara overhears the talk and runs to the Royal Teacher. The King tells Col. Solomon to tell the Governor General that they accept. The Royal Teacher comes in. He is very upset about the agreement. And he is disappointed that after his 40 years of service, the new King never even consulted him. They never even took his suggestions. He tells the King: "It’s obvious you no longer need me."  The King pleads with the Royal Teach to stay. The Royal Teacher says he will only come back when there is a King who can erase what the present King has done. The Teacher leaves Jhansi. He is very restless. He finally comes to Vithur.

In Vithur a couple of British officers are driven in a carriage through the town. A father of many children stops the carriage because of the danger of it hitting one of the very many young children in the town. The driver threatens to whip the father if he does not let him proceed. One of the father’s children, Manu, steps up to shout that the driver wants to beat her father. She calls for the help of her many siblings. Finally, the senior officer gets up in the carriage and calms things down enough so the carriage can continue on its way.

Her father cautions Manu. The man had a gun. He could have killed her. But Manu says that she is not afraid. She also says she will one day own ten elephants.

Her two friends Nana and Rao come through the town riding on top of an elephant. Manu wants to ride with them, but Rao tells the willing Nana that an elephant ride is not meant for a daughter of the poor. They ride on.  Manu places herself in front of the elephant. The Royal Teacher sees the danger and rushes to save her from being trampled. He learns that she is the daughter of a servant of Shrimant Peshwa. The Royal Teacher says he will meet with Shrimant Peshwa.

The Royal Teachers speaks with Shrimant Peshwa. He tells the father that his son Chemeli has a good horoscope. Manu is there and she asks him if there are any elephants in her hand. He tells her that there will be many in her future. The Royal teacher says that he has been searching the country for four years . . .

The DVD from minute 16 to minute 46 is so bad that it is not viewable.

We skip ahead to minute 46.

A royal of some sort watches women giving a very impressive show of horsemanship. The royal asks to see their commander. The commander arrives. It is none other than Manu.

Manu becomes the Queen of Jhansi. Tara makes clothes for the prince of Jhansi who will certainly, they believe, be born to the Queen. The Queen prays: "God if you want, give me daughters all my life." But, she adds, the people want a prince. The Royal Teacher is with her and tells her to have patience.

The day of the birth arrives. King Gangadhar is very nervous and restless. A boy is born.

Britisher Henry Ducat, childhood friend of the Queen, comes to visit her. He said that he joined the army and came back to India. He is a lieutenant. Manu introduces him to the King. The King is happy to meet him and offers him a tour of the palace. But Henry says he has to report to his commanding officer. He asks if it would be o.k. to bring his wife to meet the prince. Yes. The King invites him to the party they are hosting for Lord Clement.

Henry and his wife Doris dance at the party.  Manu is upset. The prince is sick. Henry introduces Doris to the King, who is very worried about his son. The Colonel comes to speak with the King. He says that the female army of the Queen is against their agreement. The King refers to it as just a toy army, but he promises to speak to the Queen. He doesn’t want any misunderstandings between him and the British.

The Prince dies. The King is very upset. The music and dancing stop immediately. A little later the King faints. He tells Manu that he is dying and he wants to determine who will be his heir before he dies. He tells a minister, a guard and another official that he will adopt the son of Vasudev Niwalkar, named Anand Rao. The boy’s name will be changed to Damodar Rao, the name of the late prince. He tells the men to arrange the adoption. The mean arrange the adoption and when it is completed, the cannons sound from atop the palace walls.

The King tells Major Ellis that the adoption was done in his presence to make sure it was all legal and acceptable. The Queen will be the regent for the young boy of about 6 years of age. The King asks the Major to get the Governor General to agree to the adoption and his becoming the King eventually. At this time the King’s nephew Sada Shiv comes in to declare that this arrangement is not a legitimate one. He says that when the King dies, he wants to marry the Queen. The King tells him: "Shut up you ruffian or I will have your tongue . . ." He can’t finish the sentence. He falls backward and dies.

Sada Shiv goes to speak with the Major. He tells him that it is he who is the rightful owner of the throne of Jhanis. The Major tells him that there a a dozen or so claimants to the throne. And the Queen’s case is very strong. A servant overhears the conversation and she reports it to the Queen. Sada Shiv is certainly a traitor. The Royal Teacher tells the Queen that there is still time to announce formally that the Prince will be the King. The Teacher will arrange the entire ceremony.

The ceremony is held. In the middle of it Major Ellis arrives to read an order from Governor General Lord Dalhousie. But the Queen insists that the ceremony continue. Then Major Ellis may read his order. They finish the ceremony.

The Major starts reading the order. Since neither Shiva Shiv Rao Alkar nor the Queen have proven their rights, the Kingdom of Jhansi is declared neutral and is added to the Company’s empire. The Queen is furious and will not agree to the order. She says she will defend her country to her death. The Major reads that the Company will take the treasury and will give it back to the Prince when he comes of age.

Manu argues with the Royal Teacher over what to do. She says she will fight, but the Royal Teachers comments the ant will challenge the elephant. He gets the Queen to let him speak to the kings of the other Kingdoms of India and prepare them for a campaign of freedom and liberty. He says the Queen has now planted a seed of freedom and in the future children will say that the first sword of freedom was raised by the Queen of Jhanssi Laxmi Bai.

The Royal Teacher gets the Kings of many kingdoms to agree to a war of freedom. The states involved include Awadh, Bihar, Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab. They all agree that preparations must be done in absolute secrecy. It is 1854. The rebellion is set for Sunday, May 31, 1857.

The years pass. The first sign of rebellion occurrs in Meerat on May 10, 1857. The next rebellion is in Delhi on May 15, then in Lucknow on June 2, and, finally, in Jhansi on June 4.

British Captain Gordon rides in to speak with the Queen of Jhansi. Their fort is under siege and he asks that the Queen provide sanctuary for their wives and children. The Queen agrees. At the fort the situation is desperate. The remaining people discuss whether or not the Queen will help them.

Major Ellis asks General Kale Khan if he will let them retreat to the security of the sea. He offers his word to the Major. But when the fort gate is opened the Indian troops rush in and start killing everyone.

The Queen is informed that Captain Gordon was killed on his way back to the fort. Generals Kale Khan and Guru Bakht killed all the women and children. Manu is very upset. She thinks she will be blamed for the killing of the innocents. When General Khan and his troops return to ask her for monetary support to go to Delhi, she scolds Gen. Khan for the murders. But the troops and the General start shouting that they will rob all of Jhansi if she does not agree. The Queen throws them her necklace worth over 100,000 English pounds. The troops and their general leave.

Mhow. Headquarters Central Command. General Hughes in charge. He tells his officers that they have to recapture all those places held by the rebels. They are first to recapture Jhansi to take revenge for the massacre there. Henry Ducat, having escaped from the fort, is there. He says that he knows the Queen and she has no connection with the massacre. Sada Shiv asks: "Then why did she give them the necklace?"

General Hughes tells Brigadier Steward to advance through Jabalpur. After two weeks they will meet in Jhansi. He sents Henry Ducat to the Queen to read her the ultimatum. Henry walks up the steps to speak in public to the Queen The ultimatum states that the British hold her responsible for the massacre in Jahonbaugh. She, Gen. Khan and 14 other chiefs must turn themselves into the East India Company. If not, they will attack and devastate the whole of Jhansi. He then gives her a token from Gen. Hughes. It's a pair of handcuffs for the Queen.

The Queen’s answer is that they will meet on the battlefield. She throws the handcuffs to General Gauz Khan and he breaks them in two parts. He then throws them at Ducat’s feet. The Queen gives Henry a rifle cartridge to remind the General what he will get.

The Queen makes preparations for the battle. She institutes a scorched earth policy in the surrounding areas around Jhansi. She speaks to her men.

The battle begins. The Company’s soldiers bring ladders to scale the walls of the fort. After awhile, a messenger tells the Queen that their troops on the south wall are deteriorating. The cannons of the enemy are throwing bombs from the temple across from them. And we can’t fire at the temple (for religious reasons).

The Queen talks with General Gauz Khan and gets him to fire on the temple area. They stop the threat. Manu congratulates the General on the expertise of his cannon firing.

Gen Hughes complains to Shiv that his temple idea failed. And now they have been fighting for six days and six nights. Ghe General says they will give him the throne if he helps defeat the Queen and her forces. Shiv decides to lead his troops to help win the battle. He pays a man to get into the fort and open the gates for him. He pays him for his troubles.

The gates are opened and the company troops rush in. They set fire to Jhansi. General Gauz Khan is shot and dies. The company troops take down the Jhansi flag and replaces it with a British flag. The Royal Teacher tells the Queen that the city is one ball of fire. Shiv is responsible for this. The Queen prepares for her death. She tells her men to prepare the funeral pyre. But the Royal Teacher tells her to trust in Kalpi, Nana and Rao being read with their army. Join with them and fight for the freedom of Jhansi. The Queen and her son ride away accompanied with 24 troops.

General Hughes tells Ducat to get that woman dead or alive. The troops rush into the throne room. The Royal Teacher lights the gunpowder fuse and blows the throne room to bits. Shiv enters with the palace with his troops.

Sada Shiv goes to Gen. Hughes and asks for what is his. But the General tells him that the royal throne has been burned. This means that he cannot be made King. Shiv threaten to turn his army on the British. For that threat he is arrested, tied to the front of a cannon and killed when the cannon is lit. The General is satisfied.

The Queen only has six of her twenty-four defenders left. And riders are heading their way. The Queen and her son get on a horse.  A soldier gets on his horse and accompanies them. They ride as fast they can. The remaining soldiers fight Henry Ducat and his men. While the fight continues, Henry decides to purse the Queen by himself. As he gets closer and closer to the Queen, she fires the pistol he gave her as a child and he goes down. The Queen comes back to check on him and sees that it is Henry. She is sorry that she killed him.

General Hughes is informed that the Queen has reached Kalpi and has joined arms with the army of Tatiy Rao. The General says they will immediately march on Kalpi.

The army of General Saguaros kept following the Queen wherever she went. From Kalpi she went to Gopalpur and then Gwalior where Rao doesn’t listen to what the Queen has to tell him. He is very over-confident and enjoys singing and dancing as the British approach.

The Queen takes maters into her own hands. She leads an attack on the cannon positions. The British counter-attack. It is hand to hand fighting on horseback. The Queen is right in the thick of it.

The Queen lies on the ground in the shade. An aide hovers over her. She tells him that in 10 or 100 years this sun they see will bring the message of liberty! Liberty! Liberty! May it become immortal. She dies.

The aide places her body on hay in a thatched house and sets it afire.

 

Pretty good movie.  Gives you some idea of the abuses fostered by the imperialist East India Company.  And it praises the resistance fighters that died fighting British imperialism. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

Jhansi is a city of Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India below the country of Nepal. 

9th century – region of Jhansi came under the rule of the Rajput Chandela dynasty of Khajuraho.

The Khangars succeeded the Chandelas. They then built the fort of Karar.

c. 14th century – the Bundelas take over.

1526-c. 1850  --  reign of the Muslim Mughal Empire. 

1610 – the fortress of Jhansi built by the ruler of Orchha state.

c. 1700  --  Mughal emperors at the height of their powers.

1732 – To fight the Muslims, Chhatrasal, the Bundela king, aked the help of the Hindu Marathas, who came to his assistance.

1734  --  upon the death of Chhatrasal, the Hindu Marathas receive one-third of the Maharaja's dominions.  The Maratha general developed the city of Jhansi. 

1806 – British protection is promised to the Maratha chief.

1817 – the Peshwa in Pune ceded all his rights over Bundelkhand to the British East India Company.

1828 (November) – Rani Lakshmibai born at Kashi (Varanasi) to a Brahmin Marathi family from Dhawadshi, District Satara, Maharashtra.

1832 – at only the age of four, Rani loses her mother. Her father Moropant Tambe worked at the court of Peshwa Peshwa Bajirao I at Bithur.

1845 – at the age of 13, Rani’s father worked at the court of Raja Bal Gangadhar Rao Newalkar, the Maharaja of Jhansi.

1846 – Rani marrid to Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi. Because of her father's position, Rani Lakshmi Bai had more independence than most women. Th women were usually restricted to the zenana. She studied self-defense, horsemanship and archery, and even formed. She even established her own female army composed of her female friends at court.

1851 – Rani bears a son, but the child dies at the age of four months. The married couple now adopt Damodar Rao.

1853 (November) – the Raja, never having recovered from his son's death, dies of a broken heart.  The Raja of Jhansi died without children. The East India Company, under Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, established the Doctrine of Lapse, wherein an adopted son cannot claim the throne of the deceased adopting parent. Dalhousie then annexes Jhansi, saying that the throne had become "lapsed" and thus put Jhansi under his "protection".  The Governor-General of India annexes his territory. The Jhansi state and the districts of Jalaun and Chanderi districts are formed into a superintendency.

1854 (March) – the Rani receives a pension of 60,000 rupees and is ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort .

1857 (June) – in the Revolt of 1857 a few men of the 12th Native Infantry seized the fort containing the treasure and magazine, and massacred the European officers of the garrison along with their families. (The head of the rebels, Rani Lakshmi Bai, died bravely in battle in Gwalior.)

not until 1858 (November) – British regain control in Jhansi, which is given to the Maharaja of Gwalior.

1886 – as the result of a territorial swamp, Jhansi comes under total British rule.

1914 – Dewan Shatrughan Singh marries Rani Kaushlya Devi later called Rani Rajendra Kumari. The duo spent life serving their people. During the freedom struggle the couple went to jail several times and refused Class A treatment that they were entitled to choosing to stay with the poor inmates who they believed needed their help.

Jhansi participated in the Indian Freedom Struggle under Dewan Shatrughan Singh and his wife Rani Rajendra Kumari.

Dewan Saheb was the father of the freedom movement in the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (Central India). Dewan Shatrughan Singh became known as 'Bundelkhand Gandhi'.

1920s – Dewan Shatrughan Singh meets Gandhi and became his follower.

1947 – Dewan Shatrughan Singh and his wife continued their public service after independence for India.

 

 

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