From Heroic Durga to the Next Victim of an Oppressive Patriarchal Indian Culture: Too Many Variants of Phoolan Devi’s Biography

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.20.2018.02.12

Keywords:

Phoolan Devi’s autobiography, manipulation, justification, violence, sexual abuse

Abstract

From Heroic Durga to the Next Victim of an Oppressive Patriarchal Indian Culture: Too Many Variants of Phoolan Devi’s Biography

Phoolan Devi (10.08.1963–25.07.2001), the famous Bandit Queen still appears in stories about famous Indian women. However, while in India, mainly among poor villagers, she is usually described as a heroic defender of the poorest, in the West Phoolan is seen primarily as another victim of Indian patriarchal culture. Moreover, although most of books about Phoolan are based on interviews with her, every version of her biography differs from one another, which raises the question whether these differences are the consequence of a conscious manipulation of a person who tries to justify certain dark aspects of her life, since the famous dacoit owes her fame to her bloody act of revenge on Thakurs in the Behmai village, which was the biggest crime committed by bandits in India until then.

The most popular story about Phoolan’s life is the film Bandit Queen made in 1994 by Shekhar Kapur, based on the book India’s Bandit Queen. The True Story of Phoolan Devi by Mala Sen, who is also the author of the screenplay. The autobiography of Phoolan Devi, who tried to stop the release of the Bandit Queen, claiming that it shows a false story, was written in response to those two works. By constructing her image in the autobiography, Phoolan Devi tries to appear as a very strong woman who could achieve a lot, in spite of adverse conditions. Yet it is hard to resist the impression that the autobiography of Phoolan Devi, despite of its very realistic elements, is to some extent a false testimony. The question remains whether it was the publisher, who decided to construct the story this way to satisfy the tastes of the Western readers and respond to their needs, just like the movie of Shekhar Kapur, or maybe Phoolan, deliberately or unknowingly, presented herself as a victim in search of sympathy after the massacre in Behmai.

References

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Published

2018-12-31

How to Cite

Szurlej, Tatiana. 2018. “From Heroic Durga to the Next Victim of an Oppressive Patriarchal Indian Culture: Too Many Variants of Phoolan Devi’s Biography”. Cracow Indological Studies 20 (2):257-80. https://doi.org/10.12797/CIS.20.2018.02.12.