Bandit Queen – director’s commentary

As they are re releasing the DVD of Bandit Queen in the UK. I decided to do an extensive director’s commentary on it. And I sat there and cried as I watched the film after almost 10 years. What happened to the director Shekhar Kapur ? Where did he get lost ? Bandit Queen has such subtext, such detail, such an emotional and innovative way of telling a strong story. Without having to resort to great directorial flourishes. The actors were great, probably the best I ever had. Ashok Mehta, the DP was great, and I rue the fact that he and I never worked together again. The editing was so acute and incisive, and unfortunately Renu Saluja died far too young. In fact wherever she and I disagreed, she was right, as I can see in the film now. The Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was so evocative and emotional withput being intrusive. Almost spiritual. And he died too young.
Why ? Because I worked completely in synch with the writing. with the music, with filming, wit the actors. We were all one team tethered to each other. Because there were no creative pressures from above. Because this was my most instinctual film. Because i did not try and prove anything to anyone. Just shot the film from the heart . And the film was made in utmost humility. Why ? Because all of us worked in trust, in faith and towards a common vision Will I be able to bring that humility back to PAANI ? God, I hope so. If I am half the director that I was in Bandit Queen, PAANI should be a wonderful film. Please try and hear the director’s commentary on Bandit Queen. I promise you, it will be worth it.

22 Responses to “Bandit Queen – director’s commentary”

  1. Dq says:

    Shekhar I dont know if you remember….
    Let me remind you…somewhere behind you had discussed how responsibility is the key to extracting the best from you…I mean something like that you had discussed where the film makers questioned you….interview….how you going to direct the film and you said how can one explain art!!
    And i had said…responsibility on your back does not let the real you flow naturally…with the weight of responsibility….
    So here you are again…when you talk of Bandit Queen….you worked without the pressures of pleasing anyone…nor trying to please anyone nor were you questionable to a certain point…hence in humility the best came forth….
    So if these methods are applied to every industry…can you see the growth??
    Each industry is with targets, inhuman responsibilities…un natural pressures….one day will come when the method of dealing with staff will have to change if they want saner balanced growth…
    This is what I see from this article of yours….
    I dont know if i made sense…but I guess I dont feel I need to make sense always….if it makes sense to me…EnUfFF!!
    Eh heh!!
    tadaaa
    Pssst lucky you…you can hug ur girl atleast…

  2. t_Tom says:

    I’m glad to hear that… I had been waiting for a new dvd edition to be released with a commentary before I bought the film… I’ll get this one now when it comes out! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    And I’m absolutely sure Paani will be a wonderful film!

  3. danish s says:

    Buck up story teller!!
    Shed the burden of creativity..
    naked you are..
    nothing to hide…
    unleash the instincts..
    watch the sky again.
    you will feel better.
    I hope….

  4. danish s says:

    Shed the burden of creativity..
    naked you are..
    nothing to hide…
    unleash the instincts..
    watch the sky again.
    you will feel better.
    I hope….

  5. Liebestod says:

    i will watch the commentary – if u insist! even though i hate watching a film while the director’s commentary tries to tell me what to think. if the film is any good, i should be able to figure it all out myself. i do like the commentaries included in the dvds special features though. after the film they are like a good dessert.. miam
    and yes, its difficult to make anything when all eyes are set on you. when you are just beginning its only just you at stake because frankly nobody else believes in you. but after you have proved yourself people gumble on you and they share the risk and they demand to get satisfied!! also you hardly ever dissapoint when there are no expectations but you are bound to dissapoint when anything is expected, no matter how great the body of work you produce turns out. the fact that you are even worrying you have lost your touch though, kind of assures me you havent. it is a good sign

  6. Navin says:

    “Will I be able to bring that humility back to PAANI ? God, I hope so. If I am half the director that I was in Bandit Queen, PAANI should be a wonderful film.”
    Dear Shekhar,
    You will be pleasantly surprised to see that you have become twice the director that you were in Bandit Queen and not half as you fear, ONLY IF you follow your heart and trust your intuition while making this film. If Ronnie and Ram of UTV can give a free hand to relative newbies like Ashutosh Gowariker and Madhur Bhandarkar, surely they can give complete creative freedom to a senior director like you too. (I’m assuming UTV will fund Paani) At this stage of your career, you don’t have to worry about being given creative freedom. You should be able to command it. My only worry is that if Paani is delayed any longer, someone else might make a film on this subject before you.
    All the best for NY : I love you
    Cheers!
    Navin

  7. Dear Mr.Kapur,
    Hope Indians too get director’s comment on Bandit queen.
    As we have all seen Bandit Queen, we want to know your comments as after meeting you, and expressing that the entire agitated, gripping tonality of film is told in just first 5-6 seconds, I have this strange thought that even if Phulan Devi would not exist in real, your film is real.
    I can sense the yesteryear nostalgia of shooting the film within a team work where the film is made with utmost detailing and when one looks back, and think about personalities like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Renu Saluja there is sense of void.
    Sir, PAANI is the film close to your being. You are such a terrific director that as a fan of yours I am waiting for the film to happen. I was at a beach in Goa and thinking is Paani film based on need based emotion of fear? Who is Antagonist or who will represent them? Who will represent the need & poor people won’t be heard before it’s too late. Will the story define class of people and will the future lead to war?
    I am doubly sure Sir you have lived with Paani script since last few years questioning and no one else would be able to interpret better then you. Wishing you all the luck and you are better attuned then what you were in Bandit Queen Days. Hope to get the DVD of Bandit Queen and hope that Paani is made exactly the way you want, with utmost humility, innovation, instinctual film making that has your spiritual quality when you are on floor just from the inner core of your heart & not bothering about creative pressures is the prayer of yours truly
    Deepak Rajgor

  8. kedar says:

    hey dude…yes, u will be able to achieve that for sure…its a bigger challenge only because PAANI is an out an out fiction and bigger in scale…but since u have courage and capacity to
    THINK of such a project then u will also have strength to execute it the way u want it to be!!!
    you are really, truly young at heart and for sure gutsy! because not many would have courage to say ‘what happened to the director in me which was there 10 yrs ago?’… by saying this you have revived him…
    i remember a Writer’s association happened in Pune…Javed Saab was there… that man has guts…he openly said ‘ Woh aas nahi rahi…is liye likhna band kar diya…’ and then he took a slight pause…i felt that he shook his head slightly… suddenly my eyes filled with tears…Imagine the pain he must be going through when he must be sitting in his study room, staring at blank sheet of paper…days after days the same paper is lying on the table…! good that he is blessed with an art of writing lyrics too… otherwise he would have become a drunkard… ๐Ÿ™‚ but he showed the strength of a character by saying it loudly…
    same thing happened today when i read your post…suddenly i felt a jolt in my stomach…
    what happened to that director?
    if you will see your films after Bandit queen, you will notice that they are in fact better than bandit queen in many aspects in terms of TECHNICALITIES…Badit Queen is Fresh! that was its biggest strength…the subject, the form you used, the style every thing was VIRGIN!…while later films had Classical Story telling style… but apart from aesthetics of story telling the more imp thing is that u made those films and u know better that u were more INNOCENT in your approach while making bandit queen…so its all about INTENTION after all…your skill has only improved…may be you had lost the FEEL which u always enjoyed being a director…it is back now…so dance naked in ur home… :))))))))))) Eurekaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    same thing happens about Spiritual search…those who dont practice spirituality as in Monk’s life style, they get disconnected and get lost in practical life and suddenly one day FLASH…FUCK…waht the hell i am doing…!…and then again back on track…same thing happens with genuine artists!…
    and with PAANI you would certainly hit the chord with your true director self only because u are out an out passionate about the subject…
    waht else…wanted to type so much…but too many thoughts are crossing each other and contradicting themselves…
    all the best for NY film…
    take care…tata…kedar…
    PS: love you dude…cheers!

  9. metaphorme says:

    Shekhar, you have such heart. Hold onto that little child heart. I remember you saying that, and I try daily to hold onto that child heart of creativity. And then, maybe, film will do filming?
    @kedar – Yeah, I often get disconnected from that strumming core. I suppose it is my koan in this life. One of many. Ha!

  10. Himanshu says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Thanks a lot for doing the commentary for Bandit Queen – the DVD I have is the one Koch Lorber films released in 2004 and I love watching it often. I find your scene where you come driving the truck very amusing and when you keep laughing after the bandits and Phoolan ask you to get down – it’s such a cool scene.
    The acting and the whole focus of showing things as real as possible is amazing. I think that focus on just pure creativity is what you are talking about. I don’t think I’ll get the DVD here in India but I’ll get it as soon as I get back to New York. I totally love the score and it supports the sentiment of the film so well, as well as the dialogues – which are just what they were meant to be – real to the core.
    I am sure the films that you have made after that as well as the experiences during this time have would have definitely changed you, but if we have certain qualities within us we can always bring them back. I am sure you’ll be able to make Paani any way you like but as the budget increases so does the commercial responsibility of all people involved in the making of the film, but if the films strikes a emotional chord with the audiences it is most likely to work.
    Best Regards and hope New York is treating you just great,
    Himanshu

  11. Gopi says:

    Shekhar
    Do you know if it will be released in Australia?
    Gopi

  12. Sarang Nafdey says:

    hmmmm…I remember days of BQ, we sneaked to watch it to a cinema hall and came back homes after looking the board “For mature audience only”. Perhaps, that wasn’t the time India was mature enough for a great flick like that ๐Ÿ™‚
    IMO Thing like BQ happens just once for a Filmaker in his life. It’s like Goodfellas for Scorsese, SPR for Spielberg and Forrest Gump for Zemeckis.

  13. Suzie says:

    My dear friend – Returning to your blog for the first time since our meeting at Isha, I am happy to read this and sense your introspection…There is something related I want to share with you. Please contact me.

  14. AJ says:

    I asked the distributor friend but had no idea about it. When is it going to be released in USA ?

  15. Neeta says:

    I finally watched this movie. The dvd I rented did not have the directors commentary ๐Ÿ™ nor any songs in the 119 mins. But I’m glad I watched it or I would have missed a great movie. The movie is actually kind of scary and the first thing I felt was I’m lucky to be born in a family that gave me all the opportunities any child could have. The casteism and violence depicted is such a far cry from the surroundings in which I was raised that it is hard to believe such things exist in India. When and how will we get rid of such a abhorable social structure? Inequality begins in a home when parents don’t nuture children with equal love and opportunity. And how can parents shrug off this burden of being low caste or high caste? when there are the few with power who hope to hang on to it by subjugating those who are trapped or submit to such mindless existence.
    I truly believe education and information is the key to self-empowerment, even in the absence of justice and equality. This takes a concerted community effort, however small, without which people continue to live in their own comfort of ignorance until the storm outside topples their boat. For this we need inspiring leaders or entrepreneurs who can bring about a change in these deep-seated and unjust social beliefs.
    The movie itself is a piece of art! and I cannot comment on any aspect of that. Just as saying ‘the flower is beautiful’ comes nowhere near describing it’s beauty.
    But I was curious about the controversy surrounding it and came across this article,
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/199611/bandit-queen, that gives some idea of why Phoolan Devi was opposed to the movie but I found her comments somewhat self-contradictory. I think the movie did more justice to her story than she realises.
    I wonder what kind of conversations you both must have had. And how could you have befriended a foul-mouthed bandit!?
    I could not believe a bandit in the interview proudly claiming to have killed more than 400 innocents and is standing for state elections in which he’s assured a win!! It pales the 22 Behmai killings in comparison. I’ve no idea where our country is headed.
    My reactions to this movie is far removed from the one we had as children. We kids would be quite hilarious wearing our dads belt and a head band and pretending to be Phoolan Devi. Good old days.

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  17. manish says:

    Shekharji,
    You said while making Bandit queen you have nothing to prove anything to anybody. you made it whith all of your heart and humanistic aproch.
    I am sure that you have the capacity to make Paani without compairing your efforts in Bandit queen. Your should made it in new and origininal way with the same passion and enthusiasm.

  18. Janhavi says:

    Hi!
    I have been hunting high and low for Bandit Queen’s soundtrack.. Wore out a bunch of cassettes, and people have actually pinched two of my CDs in the days prior to music storage on computers.
    Could you please give me a lead as to where I can find this music? Will pay CD price if a copy can be made available.
    Thanks!
    Janhavi

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