Bandit Queen

on June 30, 1995 by Wade Major
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Still unreleased in its home country of India, director Shekhar Kapur's biopic on the exploits of the famed "Bandit Queen," Phoolan Devi, is a towering achievement that should find its way onto a respectable share of year-end 10-best lists.
Lower-caste Devi's rise from 11-year-old bride to notorious bandit warrior makes for riveting cinema, pulling no punches in its quest to immerse audiences in the horror of the Indian caste system. Foremost, though, "Bandit Queen" is a dissection of the psychology of revenge, in emotionally devastating fashion depicting Devi's torture, rape and degradation at the hands of mostly upper-caste men, leading finally to her bloody rampage and eventual surrender.
Like Mad Max, Dirty Harry, Lawrence of Arabia, and Thelma and Louise rolled into one, Seema Biswas invests Devi with passion and madness, adding fire to an already combustible blend of visual and narrative fury. With the real Devi now free and pursuing a career in politics, it's quite possible the film's ongoing sociopolitical quagmire will ultimately benefit the fortunes of both the movie and its remarkable subject. Starring Seema Biswas, Nirmal Pandey and Manoj Bajpai. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. Written by Mala Sen. Produced by Sundeep S. Bedi. An Arrow release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 119 min.
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