Bandit Queen (1994)

One woman dared to fight back

Original Title : Bandit Queen
Director : Shekhar Kapur
Writer : Ranjit Kapoor
Mala Sen
Genre : Drama
Country : India
Language : Hindi
Producer : Bobby Bedi , Varsha Bedi
Music : Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Roger White
Photography : Ashok Mehta
IMDB ID : 0109206
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poster for "Bandit Queen" by Shekhar Kapur (1994)
Bandit Queen (1994) - Shekhar Kapur


Seema Biswas Phoolan Devi
Aditya Srivastava Puttilal
Agesh Markam Mad Woman
Ajai Rohilla Behmai Man
Anirudh Agarwal Babu Gujjar
Anil Sahu Vikram Gang Member
Anupam Shyam Ganshyam
Aseem Bajaj Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Ashok Bulani D.S.P
Ashok Sharma Ashokchand Servant
Avinash Nemade Doctor
Basant Rawat Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Chotelal Siraswal Vikram Gang Member
Deepak Chibber S.P. Bhind
Deepak Soni Miandad
Dhawal Gwaliori Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Dilip Raghuvanshi Commander Yadav
Gajraj Rao Ashokchand
G.B. Dixit Ala Singer
Girish Solanki Tarika's Partner
Govind Namdeo SriRam
Guddi Munni
Gyan Shivpuri Phool Singh
Harish Tarika
Hemant Mishra Policeman
Hemant Pandey Ashokchand's Friend
Jeetendra Shastri Bharat
Kamia Bhatt Rukhmani, age 11
K.D. Segan A.D.C
Khunni Lal Maina Pundit
Lakshmi Narayan Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Mahesh Chandra Chief Minister
Malabai Sonwani Mother-in-law
Mandakini Goswami Kailash's Wife
Manoj Bajpai Man Singh
Nazim Hussain Vikram Gang Member
Nazim Patel Vikram Gang Member
Nirmal Pandey Vikram Mallah
Pallavi Bharti Little Girl
Paritosh Sand Devendra Singh
Pawan Gupta Vikram Gang Member
Pradeep Gupta Vikram Gang Member
Puran Bhatt Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Raghuvir Yadav Madho
Rajesh Vivek Mustaquim
Raj Kumar Kamie Thakur Gang
Rakesh Raekwar Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Ram Charan Nirmalker Devideen
Ranjit Chowdhry Shiv Narain (as Ranjit Chaudhry
Ravi Sangde Messenger
Sanjeev Kumar Poolan/Man Singh Gang
Saurabh Shukla Kailash
Savitri Raekwar Moola
Sitaram Panchal Lalaram
Sunil Gaekwad Rattan Chand
Sunita Bhatt Little Phoolan
Surendra Kora Behmai Man
Uma Yaish Rukhmani
Vibanshu Vaibhav Vikram Gang Member
Vijay Shukla Ashokchand's Friend
Vinod Tiwari Vikram Gang Member
Yogesh Gupta Poolan/Man Singh Gang


The movie tells the story of the bandit queen Phoolan Devi who was sent to prison in 1983 and got free in 1994. During five years she was prosecuted by the Indian police and turned into a legend (like a modern Robin Hood) by the Indian press. Although the press tended to make her the optimal hero with blue eyes, dark hair, being tall and beautiful she was in reality an average Indian which makes it hard for the movie to fulfill the expectations of the audience and tell the truth at the same time. Nowadays Phoolan Devi wants to enter the field of politics.


Great subject, average as a movie I am surprised to find the IMDB details mentioning a certain Mike Higgins as the main director of the film, with Shekhar Kapur as the second director. The video I just watched (made in UK) does not mention any "Mike Higgins" as a director in the credits. I trust this is a mistake and not reflecting something deeper... The film's subject is poignant and very real. It happened. One can debate some artistic liberties taken by director and scriptwriter. The subject is what makes the film tick--nothing else. I saw the film for the first time after the real Phoolan, was gunned down in New Delhi and had served several years as an elected Member of Parliament in India. By the way, she was not the first untouchable elected to Parliament, as some reviewers stated. The so-called "untouchables" have been elected to the Indian Parliament for decades in reserved constituencies. While Shekhar Kapur as a director is a hero to many India, because he made commercially accepted international films---"Bandit Queen" and "Elizabeth" (and a tolerable kiddie movie called "Mister India", which was accepted by the average Indian audiences)---and even got Oscar nominations for Elizabeth, I do not place him as a top notch film director from India. He fails in every department as a director except perhaps that he succeeds in getting some above-average performances from his actors. Subtlety, finesse, charm are not easy to find in his films--melodrama brims in them. His idea of using Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's vocal rendering of the song in the early parts of the film, was perhaps his single major achievement on the undistinguished sound track of "Bandit Queen". And then perhaps the creaking doors during the gang rape sequence. Otherwise the film looked like a spaghetti western with sex and violence minus the great music one associates with them. If you are looking for a good living Indian film director who makes realistic cinema of international quality--it is not Shekhar Kapur's movies you should see, it is the later works of three Indian film-makers Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mrinal Sen, and Girish Karnad and of course Muzaffar Ali's "Umrao Jaan". It is unfortunate that none of those directors had the financial support that Kapur had to give them and their films an international viewership. For instance, Sen's "Oka oorie katha" made in Telugu, or Satyajit Ray's "Sadgati" based on Munshi Prem Chand's "Kafan" are more complete as films to an intelligent viewer dealing on the state of the untouchables in India. Sen did not have to resort to graphic sex and violence but merely suggested them. Of course, Sen's nugget did not make headlines, while Kapur's effort hogged them. To Kapur's credit, he is articulate and used his limited talent and modest resources in the Mumbai film industry to take his products beyond home audiences. For that effort, I salute Kapur. But "Bandit Queen" will remain a great subject awaiting an accomplished director to deal with it.
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