Wanted to share the story of Indian superhero Rani Laxmibai: director Swati Bhise on new film

Mumbai, Nov 15 (PTI) Classical dancer-turned-director Swati Bhise says through her upcoming directorial film 'The Warrior Queen of Jhansi', her aim was to present India's wonder woman to the West.

Through Bharatnatyam, Bhise has done projects that presented different aspects and strengths of Indian mythological figures like Durga, Sita and Draupadi.

And now, with her debut film, she wanted to show it to the global audience a real Indian woman hero, freedom fighter Rani Laxmibai's journey on the celluloid.

'I wanted to bring out a real woman story so as to share it with the west and global east. Rani Laxmibai, for me, is a wonder woman. I had pride in her and my heritage. I thought there would be many films on it in Bollywood, but there weren't. I stumbled upon only one that came in 1952.

'She is a ready-made Indian superwoman here, while they (west) have to create it,' Bhise told PTI in an interview here.

Though her film was completed in December 2017, her illness led to its delay. Meanwhile, Kangana Ranaut’s 'Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi' hit the theatres early this year.

'I have not seen this film. Ours is an English language film. We had completed our film in December 2017 and had even sent for screening at IFFI. We have been sitting on it because I was not allowed to travel internationally.

'It has been a tough journey. Making the film cost me my life, I wonder what the Rani had to go through to deal with all this,' Bhise, who grew up in India and is now based in the US, said.

She spent two years doing research on the film and one-and-half year on pre-production and the shoot began in October 2017 and the team wrapped up in the same year in December.

Bhise, who is a history student, co-wrote the film with her daughter Devika, who came aboard to give the movie a western outlook.

She believes Bollywood films have never done thorough research when it comes to historical personalities.

'I have never seen authenticity neither in costume or storytelling. I think nobody cares. Our queens did not dance. It is offensive. I understand India needs it and so I let it go. I have propagated Indian art and culture in the UN general assembly, at Tiffinis and at the US.

'I present it in its pure form and package it well. For my film, I did not add any fluff to it and I want to stick to facts. She is a queen and I must portray her in full regality.' For the research, Bhise relied on 'Maja Pravas', written by Vishnubhat Godse, notable leader Tatya Tope and few scholars, besides reading some journals.

As a first time director, Bhise said it was difficult for her to get a producer on board for it.

'I remember going around LA, trying to raise money. They were happy to support but they would say, 'Why would West watch such a film?' I went to a lot of people, even in London. I used all my connections, there are a lot of people who helped us for free or charged nominal fee.' Her daughter Devika, an Indian-American actor, plays the role of Rani Laxmibai and Bhise feels she was the apt choice for the film.

'It is an ambitious project. I felt this couldn't be achieved but I had confidence in her (Bhise). It is a mammoth of a project. I had to ride horse, learn sword fighting, learn three different languages. I am happy we did it all and we were able to pull it off,' Devika adds.

'The Warrior Queen of Jhansi' is scheduled to release in the US on November 15 and in India on November 29. PTI KKP RBRB