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Born as Manikarnika, Laxmibai, also known as 'Manu' was the
daughter of a Maharashtrian Brahmin Moropant Tambe from Varanasi. While
other girls of her age chose to do household chores, she played and
defeated the local boys in muddy matches of kabaddi.
She married Gangadhar Rao, who was the Raja of Jhansi, at a very tender age. It was after her husband's untimely demise, while she was still an adolescent that the agile Rani became a true warrior and an epitome of women's power in the country.
This historical tale attempts to portray how an ordinary woman became an extraordinary exponent of Indian freedom movement. It is an attempt to bring forth the human side of the Rani, who was not just a great warrior but a human being with a golden heart.
Peshwa Bajirao and Moropant are busy with their morning business
when Tatya Tope arrives with Manu and informs them of Manu's wish to
Bajirao is impressed with Manu's determination to learn malkhamb and directs that she be taught separately.
When Moropant raises doubt that he would find it difficult to find a match for Manu, if she indulges in sports meant for men, Bajirao dispels his fears saying, "Chabili is like my daughter, and there should be no difficulty to find a groom for Bajirao's daughter.
Manu is trained in sword fight and defeats both Nana Saheb and
Rao Saheb. In a swift maneuver, she disarms both of them, and raises her
sword in gesture of victory.
Later, one day Manu makes a gunpowder arrow and Nana decides that they will test it at Hanuman tila. As Nana tries firing the arrows, his horse gets scared and Nana falls off. Manu gets an injured Nana back.
Moropant berates Manu for engaging in such dangerous acts at a young age and blames her for Nana getting injured. Manu replies fearlessly saying, "So what Father? You tell us of our glorious history. You worry about such minor injuries. Tell me, were battles fought with cotton and silk? Moropant argues, "But, you are kids." Manu replies, "Wasn't Abhimanyu the same age that Nana is?" Moropant quietly tells his daughter, "Times have changed Manu. The British have brought in the change.
The Sun has set on Jhansi fort. The city is quiet and dull,
feeling of mourn is evident. King Raghunath has died, leaving a four way
tussle for the throne. British commission sits to decide the successor
of King Raghunath. Krishna Rao is rejected; Alibahadur is rejected
because there is conjecture if he is legal heir. Gangadhar Rao suits the
purpose of British, he is known to keep himself busy in arts, not
having interest in state affairs, he is in late thirties and his wife is
dead and thus has no heir to the throne.
Coronation of Gangadhar Rao as the King of Jhansi takes place.
Moropant is worried about Manu's marriage and requests a brahmin
to search a suitable groom. When the brahmin studies the chart, he is
amazed and tells Moropant that his daughter will be a queen, and bring
fame for the family for generations to come.
Next day, the Brahmin Tatya Dixit finds the horoscope of Raja Gangadhar Rao of Jhansi and to his joy it matches with Manu. Tatya Dikshit summons all courage and comes to meet the king with Manu's proposal.
Gangadhar thinks and realizes that from being a Subhedar of Peshwas to becoming their relative would enhance his reputation and says yes to Manu's proposal.
Suddenly in a matter of trice, a playful girl in love with weapons and horses is turned by circumstances to be a bride-to-be.
Nana Saheb and Rao Saheb tease and taunt Manu that while she speaks against British, she is marrying in a family which is under control of the British. Manu retorts that she would not let this go on if she is the queen of Jhansi. Finally, Manu who is just an adolescent gets married to Gangadhar Rao aged 35.
After the wedding, Manu is given a new name Laxmibai according to Maharastrian tradition. The atmosphere resounds with the chants of 'Maharaj Gangadhar Rao Ki Jai' and 'Maharani Laxmibai Ki Jai'
With the advent of the spring festival, the Rani decides to
celebrate haldi-kumkum in Jhansi. She allows women of all castes to
visit the temple of Shiva, Ganesh and Laxmimata in the Jhansi fort.
During this time, the Rani suspects that she is pregnant and decides to seek the blessings of a married woman
At the ceremony, Rani spots a newly-wed girl waiting with fruits and garland to meet Rani Laxmibai.
Laxmibai calls her and accepts a garland from her. The girl, Jhalkari Bai, gets extremely pleased and falls at the Rani's feet. Rani asks if she wants something. Jhalkari complains that her husband instead of concentrating on his business is busier practicing malkhamb and wrestling. Rani Laxmibai advices Jhalkari to herself practice malkhamb and wrestling.
Hearing Rani's advice, all the women present burst out laughing. Rani tells Jhalkari that she is serious about it and obeys her wishes. Jhalkari Bai later becomes a martyr, when she is felled by British army guns impersonating Rani Laxmibai.
When Rani Laxmibai announces that she is pregnant, there is joy
in the Jhansi fort. Her stepmother Chimanbai takes special care of Rani
at this time.
Raja Gangadhar Rao who is planning his dream visit to Puri cancels it to be with Laxmibai.
Moropant becomes busy in thanking his deities whereas few nobles like Manik Dau and others perform the rituals required as per tradition.
Tragedy strikes. Bajirao Peshwa departs for the heavenly abode.
Moropant and Chimanbai proceed to Bithoor. However, Laxmibai has to stay
back because of her delicate condition.
Nana Saheb is declared Peshwa and takes charge of Bithoor. However, times are bad and since he is adopted, the British don't recognize his succession. They also terminate his pension amounting to Rs eight lakh. Nana starts his struggle with British for restoration of the pension, but his efforts don't bear fruit.
Rani Laxmibai asks Gangadhar Rao to influence the British, but realizes that the British fail to keep their promises.
Gangadhar Rao summons the British officer Garden for a meal with him. During the meeting, the King mentions to Garden that what has happened in Bithoor is not right and that the British are wrong in denying the pension to Nana saheb.
Garden tells him in their country they do not recognize adoption. Gangadhar Rao says that India isn't a British country, and that here adoption is a legal age old tradition.
Rani advises the King to increase the army in Jhansi and if possible increase revenue that is not in British knowledge, and improve logistics.
That Rani is pregnant is now known to everyone. Garden is sure that if the off spring is a girl, then Jhansi will pass to British rule without fuss in a short time as Gangadhar Rao has started keeping unwell.
The joys are however short lived as the three-month-old son of
Gangadhar Rao falls ill and dies. Realizing the consequences, Nana
Bhopatkar and others including Moropant decide to hide the news of the
death. However, Gangadhar Rao cannot control his emotions and the news
spreads like wild fire.
The British rejoice when the news reaches them as they can now easily upsurp Jhansi. Gangadhar Rao instead of consoling Laxmibai is himself completely shattered.
The death makes Gangadhar Rao absolutely eccentric and hyper-tempered. Rani tries her best to comfort him.
Rani encourages Gangadhar Rao to stage a play with Motibai so as to bring him out of the sorrow of losing his heir. Ever since Gangadhar Rao decides to stage a play once again, he starts missing Motibai a lot.
Gangadhar Rao decides to leave the rule in hands of Laxmibai and
go on a pilgrimage. However, at this time Laxmibai falls severely ill.
Moropant and Chimanbai tell the Raja they will look after her. However,
but Gangadhar Rao loves Rani and cancels his pilgrimage once again.
Pratap Mishra, a vaidya, cures Rani's illness and becomes a favorite of
During a cross-border festival which Gangadhar Rao undertakes, his health further deteriorates. In this period of illness Vaidya Pratap Mishra asks for a fanciful demand to build his own city near Jhansi and is granted so by the Raja.
After the festival of Dassera, Gangadhar Rao gets afflicted by dysentery and no medication manages to cure him. Jhansi gets distressed by the condition of its King. Major Malcolm requests Gangadhar Rao to avail treatment by a British doctor, but Gangadhar Rao refuses. It had once so happened that Doctor Allan posted in Jhansi was brought to prescribe medication to the King. However, Gangadhar Rao turned him away since he smelled of whiskey..
Gangadhar Rao and Rani Laxmibai adopt the five-year-old son of
Vasudev Newalkar. The ceremony is attended by Garden, Major Ellis and
Captain Martin. The adopted son is given the name Damodar Rao in a grand
ceremony. Rani happily embraces her new son.
Gangadhar Rao tells Laxmibai that his illness does not allow him to have a confrontationist attitude towards Britishers. Post adoption he calls for a meeting with British. The Rani witnesses the meeting from behind the purdah where Gangadhar Rao pleads to British representatives about how he has been faithful to the British. He extracts a promise from British that post his death Jhansi must not be orphaned.
Gangadhar Rao breathes his last.
The day Gangadhar Rao dies is the Rani's 18th birthday. In
between the ceremonial rites, Raghunath Singh, Nana Bhopatkar and other
courtiers hand over the reins of Jhansi to Laxmibai.
Malcolm sends a missive to the Governor General recommending that the adoption of Damodar Rao should not be recognized and that Laxmibai should be given a pension of Rs 5,000 a month.
Jhansi simmers in anger over this. The people of Jhansi want to come together and fight the atrocities of the British. Rani is forced to leave the fort and has to shift in the city palace. Moropant advises Rani to accept the Rs 5000 as pension. The shift is a blow to the pride of Rani Laxmibai, but Jhansi needs her to regroup and re-establish as she is outnumbered by the British forces surrounding her at the moment.
All the rich people of Jhansi come forward to help the Rani and open their coffers for her. Rani accepts the idea of a legal battle.
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