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Bandit Queen (1994)

 -  Biography | Drama  -  30 June 1995 (USA)
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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 ... See full summary »



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Title: Bandit Queen (1994)

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Complete credited cast:
Nirmal Pandey ...
Vikram Mallah (as Nirmal Panday)
Rajesh Vivek ...
Raghuvir Yadav ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Anirudh Agarwal ...
Babu Gujjar
Poolan / Man Singh Gang
Man Singh (as Manoj Bajpai)
Pallavi Bharti ...
Little Girl
Kamia Bhatt ...
Rukhmani, Age 11
Poolan / Man Singh Gang
Sunita Bhatt ...
Ashok Bulani ...
Mahesh Chandra ...
Chief Minister
Deepak Chibber ...
S.P. Bhind
Ranjit Chowdhry ...
Shiv Narain (as Ranjit Chaudhry)


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. Later in her life,She entered into the politics and was assassinated in 2001. Written by Volker Boehm

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One woman dared to fight back See more »


Biography | Drama


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Parents Guide:







Release Date:

30 June 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bandit Queen  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$399,748 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


Shekhar Kapur:  truck driver with beard whom Phoolan Devi (Seema Biswas) hits with the gun handle. See more »


Puttilal: [Tied to a pole and beaten with rifle-butt] Forgive me.
Phoolan Devi: Forgive you?
Phoolan Devi: Write this to the police.
Vikram Mallah: What?
Phoolan Devi: Any man that marries a little girl... I'll kill him.
See more »


Referenced in Hera Pheri (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Oddly uninteresting, mostly grotesque and largely droll tale of someone in a part of the world wherein being born female mostly equates to be born dead.
23 January 2013 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

The process of realising just how lacking in any sort of grace or overall substance Shekhar Kapur's 1994 film Bandit Queen actually has comes at us as quite a surprise; the film, a grubby little piece dressed up (what with its being in a foreign language, arriving with British funding as well as the cinematic pretenses it purveys throughout) is actually little more than a troublesome rape-'n'-revenge movie duly arriving with a less than subtle feminist tract, is often a trite and dull affair. The film is a mostly empty experience depicting the life of a specific woman whose experiences were anything but devoid of nastiness; a misjudged project often resembling what something like Badlands may have looked like had it been made by Lucio Fulci; an odd spin on the narrative you might find in something like Day of the Woman, a film depicting the odd splash of sexualised violence before the striking back against the state and such begin. The film doesn't know whether it's glorifying bloody revenge; demonising a monstrous ruling state, bloody revenge or glorifying the politics of those in charge. Amidst all the troublesome content, Kapur's decision to round things off with an attempt to create some sort of Gandhi-esque figure out of its lead is just deeply problematic in itself.

The film covers a young woman from the ages of eleven to around twenty five. Her name is Phoolan Devi (Biswas), a true to life figure of politics and woman's rights whose plight of abuse and marginalism are here depicted in a nation one is perhaps partial to expecting to be more rife within that of a predominantly Islamic state rather than India. One of the more terrifying things about the film is the fact it unfolds at a time when the 1970s was crossing over into the 1980s, when the attitudes and mentalities depicted therein strike us as more along the lines of what might've occurred in relation to all this stuff as the 1870s crossed over into the 1880s. On top of these ground floor ideas, the film additionally possesses the dusty, swooping sub-continental vistas in its armory: we hope all combining to set up an engaging, taut piece that looks good and comes with a healthy chunk of cinematic substance.

Alas, this is not the case. When we start with Devi's life, we begin with young Phoolan in a small stretch of water as an infant, the film offering very little in the form of respite in its documenting of this girl being put through the wringer as it is here in this very first scene a gentleman arrives in search of a bride to be. The girl is called out of the water, clean and cleansed and ready to begin a new life afresh; a sort of metaphorical rebirthing as she wonders out of the fluid ridden pool with an immediate view to leave behind everything in life up to this point, and begin a new one rife which will come to be epitomised by marginalisation and sexism. The film goes on to cover her falling in with a group of bandits when the angered rejection of this man's advances out of sexualised motivated purposes, and the consequent rejection from her home village when she escapes back to it, sees her join up with an amoral group of thugs whose way of life is what it is; Kapur here neatly highlighting the irony lying with the fact her village banishment was down to accusations of indulging in such behavior that eventually leads on to such behavior.

The presence of Vikram (Siraswal) is the film's next point of interest, an unrealistic poster boy amidst the other bandits and apparent leader of this ragtag gang whom comes to form a makeshift partner for the lead. Vikram's presence is equally problematic, a male character in the film where there need not be one; a male character who steps in and acts as a physical manifestation of where Phoolan herself should be breaking through transgressive barriers. Annoyingly, his role is to save her from the periodic attempts of rape brought about by that of the other bandits before dictating to her the rules of survival. This verbal confirmation, of what should have been established visually, pertaining to being what the lead herself should have already learnt, is a disappointing inclusion; this relying on an otherwise unnecessary male presence to inform the woman on how to get by, when the pretenses are that Bandit Queen is a piece documenting the harsh realisations a woman goes through when cut loose by a society that rejects her, equally so.

The film falls short: a one part-exploitation flick; one part eyebrows down, brow furrowed and hands clenched together beneath one's chin as if studying a chess position piece begging for some sort of contemplation. It wasn't scuzzy enough to be the former and not interesting enough to be the latter, while there is little therein for it to argue itself to be a political text on gender equality in the nation of India. With the sorts of more recent films coming out of this part of the world (namely Iran), one can skip this particular piece and jump to said texts without missing too much.

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