Bandit Queen (1994)
Blu-ray Company Release: TwilightTime
Starring: Seema Biswas, Nirmal Pandey, Rajesh Vivek, Raghuvir Yadav
Plot: Phoolan Devi born a lower-caste girl in rural India’s patriarchal society, “married” at 11, repeatedly raped and brutalized, she finds her freedom only as an avenging warrior, the eponymous Bandit Queen.
My Review and Thoughts:
As the movie starts you instantly know that you’re about to watch something very deep and harsh when the screen is displayed with a quote from the Manu Smriti which is the Hindu religious scriptures. It states:
“Animals, drums, illiterates, low castes and women are worthy of being beaten.”
One-of-a-kind film directed wonderfully and flawlessly by Shekhar Kapur. This is one of those movies that has sadly and tragically, been over looked. Bandit Queen is a movie that not only expresses the passion and historical reality of a real life, living being who is rich with history, it also creates brilliant acting and a direction that so many filmmakers can learn from. This is an Indian auto-biography film based on the real life Bandit warrior and folk icon in history, Phoolan Devi.
This is one of those films that magically surprises you after seeing it. It's an amazing award worthy film that first premiered at the 1994's Cannes Film Festival. The film is a multi-award winning film with such awards as the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi, Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie and Best Direction for that year. The movie deserves accolades for its telling of a very interesting individual that surprisingly I knew about before seeing the film for the first time back in the late 90's. I had done a collage paper on her. Phoolan Devi was an interesting soul. Notice I say was. The movie was made in 1994 and so the many events after the making of this movie is something all the more to build her legend like reality. In 2001 she was assassinated and died at the very young age of 37 years old. Now I want to make something clear she was a criminal who after being released from jail became a politician, but most politicians are criminals anyways, but that's beside the point. I had to throw that in there, but make the truth be known, she was a murderer. She was a criminal at a very young age. She also became a folk legend, a somewhat historical guru in how we make a lot of our criminals or Robin Hood like characters somewhat heroes. Devi lived a horrible life of abuse and rape at the hands of men and she ended up becoming the revenge seeking angry woman. Now I will shed some light on the backstory she was raped and sexually abused throughout her young life and eventually was brutally gang raped by a group of bandits. So in retaliation she formed her own gang, went to the village of where she was brutalized and shot and killed 22 villagers, executing men in front of their families.
She was known as the feminist Robin Hood style character in the media and the folklore style of storytelling. In 1983 she was arrested and charged with 48 crimes, including murder, plunder, arson and kidnapping for ransom. Now after much delay of her trial which was astounding 11 years everything was dropped and she was released in 1994 and one of the biggest surprises and one of the oddest shocking realities of this twisted style that only a folklore type story could have, is she decided to run in the election as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party and in amazing over the top interest was elected to parliament. It seems unbelievable but it's all true making it something of iconic legend.
The movie is based on a book Mala Sen's 1993 India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi. This movie displays itself up until her arrest in 1983. Now like all biography films they are loosely based on real life. Phoolan Devi did go on to write her own autobiography titled The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey From Peasant to International Legend. Now there are many books on her life and her legend and many of them are half-truths. Some of them are real truths and some of them explore many sides of her interesting young life. She was a character that was someone that could hold an audience of readers, of watchers of her plight and became another folk legend. Just like her legend and just like our darkened reality and horrible past of violence, she died a violent death. Assassinated by three man. She was shot to death, 3 times in her head and 2 in her body just adding one stranger stamp on an already strange truth.
Bandit Queen stars the wonderful actress Seema Biswas as the lead character. Biswas did a fantastic believable reality to the ultimate legend and horrible plight of Devi. What is so amazing about Biswas is her ultimate appeal of performing in a strong perfection throughout her career and the character of Devi is no different. She had acted in one other feature before Bandit Queen but it was the performance as Devi that brought her to ultimate recognition and I can see why. She is a master performer in this role. She aced every bit of this role with pain and a realism that never lets up. A performance of perfection and most of all a passionate reality in bringing this folk legend to life in great detail.
It truly is a shocking story and a very deep performance, something that leaves a lasting impression for its reality and its subject matter and exploration of one woman's tragic soul and ultimate journey. Very violent and tough viewing at times. Twilight Time Blu-ray did another fantastic and utterly brilliant job in capturing another film forgotten by time and giving it a new outlet so that movie buffs of a modern generation can explore it in all it's a vivid detail. No matter how shocking and tough this film maybe, Twilight Time graces it with the beauty of perfection that it deserves.
The movie is very hard to watch. The brutality in many shots is so realistic that it pains the viewer. The reality of child rape, adult rape, and gang rape is massively emotional and heart breaking. The truth and bitterness of a disturbing nature stays with you long after it’s over.
What needs to be said about Twilight Time Blu-ray's that already has not been said with accolades? I have never seen Bandit Queen as high quality of sound and visual beauty as this product and production. Another ace in the hole from a top notch company that knows what it is doing. The video is stronger than I have ever seen it before.
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1
AUDIO: Hindi 2.0 DTS-HD MA
The fantastic and brilliant isolated music score by the legend and music god himself Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He was a true legend. Sadly he passed in 1997 but was such a unique and gifted musician. What most people probably don’t realize is Khan is considered a legend and was gifted with the title of being one of the greatest voices of all time. His vocals really can’t be put into words to give him justice on how brilliant he was. He transcended the globe from Europe to Japan to America and beyond. His style and beauty at the craft of music is a one of a kind experience like no other when listening to his powerful talent. He worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Michael Brook, Eddie Vedder and many others. He was a master that gave the world amazing vocals and talent like no other. I being a huge music fan absolutely miss his talent and listen to his beauty often as I can. I was so giddy like a boy in a toy store when I learned Twilight Time was going to be honoring this movie on their Blu-ray Special Edition release and that an isolated score would be a special part of the disc. Khan is and was a master and Twilight Time honored him with allowing his talent inside this special feature.
You get a commentary by the director himself. A nice listen and an interesting education on the feature.
You also get another wonderful booklet by film historian Julie Kirgo which is always a treat for any movie buff.
It's a brutal, violent and unflinching story. Very unapologetic in its brutality toward women. It's an important and very impressive example of tragedy and the horrors that women face in different countries with old asinine beliefs and the stupidity of anger and hatred in men. It's a film that showcases the beauty of making a meaningful film with great acting, music, direction and a deep understanding of the power and the will to survive no matter the horrors faced. Phoolan was part legend, part crusader and part brutal criminal, but all true survivalist.
Twilight Time once again mastered another brilliant Blu-Ray of an excellent film that should be seen and should be owned.
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