wiki:Bandit Queen

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Bandit Queen

1994 119’ col Hindi d Shekar Kapur p Ka-lei-doscope (India), Channel Four Films (London) sc Mala Sen from her biography of Phoolan Devi dial Ranjit Kapoor c Ashok Mehta, Giles Nuttgens m Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, M. Arshad lp Seema Biswas, Nirmal Pandey, Manoj Bajpai, Rajesh Vivek, Govind Namdeo, Saurabh Shukla, Raghuvir Yadav, Sunita Bhatt

The harrowing although in the end heroic story of Phoolan Devi, previously filmed in the form of a Hindi musical (Phoolan Devi, 1984), is represented by Kapur in an intensely emotional movie drawing on a wide variety of generic elements ranging from socialist realist posturing via action movies to lyrical and, at crucial moments, impressively reserved and elliptical scenes more commonly associated with the art cinema. The story starts with the young village girl (Bhatt), still a child, being sold by her impoverished parents as a bride. The ensuing rape of the child on her ‘wedding day’, conveyed by an agonised scream, sets the tone for much of what follows. The heroine (Biswas) grows up under a regime of caste banditry and terrorism, exercised mainly by the local thakurs, backed up by police terrorism, both involving the most brutish forms of sexual terrorism as one gang rape (by the police who arrested her for running away from a childmolesting husband) is followed by another perpetrated by the thakurs which lasts for three days and is conveyed by way of a relentlessly opening barn door as the upper-caste villains file in, including a symbolic rape by an entire village community who force her to strip naked in the village square. However, instead of allowing her cold fury to destroy herself, the heroine teams up with an outlaw gang and wreaks bloody revenge on her persecutors. Chased by the police, she evades capture long enough for the news of her exploits and ordeal to spark a nationwide interest in her fate, making it difficult for the local representatives of power simply to kill her off. Political expediency requires the government to negotiate with her and she eventually surrenders at a public ceremony to which masses of people flocked from far and wide. She is applauded by the assembled people, suggesting her rebellion found a deep echo in a population exploited and terrorised by the politically powerful thakur caste in that region. Predictably, the film became controversial, a phenomenon acquiring additional complexity when Phoolan Devi, released, remarried and harbouring political ambitions but still liable to prosecution for murder should the authorities decide to press the matter, repudiated the film. The newcomer Seema Biswas gives a performance of great intensity and conviction in the lead role.

Film