The Editor of Bandit Queen

Renu Saluja, who edited Bandit Queen died a few years after, still very young. She was one of the best editors in India. The Film and Television Institute of India is paying a tribute to her. Here is mine …

For me it is difficult to separate the person from the work. I have fought all my life to merge who I am with what I am and what I do. So the greatest wrong I could do to Renu is to write words about Renu”s proffesional life without her personal.
The most striking thing about Renu was her compassion. She exuded it. She enveloped you with it. It was like you were walking into a comfortable Aura. That is what I remember about Renu most. How beautiful it was to be in her presence.
She was like an Angel. And in her death she proved to be one. Her last words to me from her hospital bed were not about her pain. She never spoke about that. Her last words to me were about those that would be left behind.
I have always worked better with editors that are women. Although I have a strong sense of my own feminine self, in the battle of making a film, my male side starts to dominate, and it needs to be counteracted by the feminine when it gets into editing. I also believe that the editing process is a ‘nurturing’ process.And that also is one of my great memories of Renu. Her innate sense of nurturing that she brought to her films.
As you see, beyond a certain standard of professional excellence, what differentiates a great artist from an good one is the nature of the person itself.
I guess every film defines the way the editor ad the director work. Renu and I watched all the rushes together after I finished Bandit Queen. There was little chance to review rushes during the filming. After that Renu and I would look at one reel at a time. She would do the first cut. I would come in and make comments and she would do it again. If there were further things to do after that, she and I would do it together. But I would always ask her to do the first couple of cuts herself. That way the film would get another, and often completely different point of view. There were things in the final version of Bandit Queen that were definitely not in the shooting of it. That was Renu. She was always in empathy with the film and it’s characters.
Renu must have found me strange. I would often come in and lock myself in a room. She would hear me shout and scream inside. That was because I wanted to be angry when I saw any cut of the film. Without that, I did not believe I could judge it. We Directors are very very strange sometimes, and we need to have editors who can hold our hand and guide us through our periods of doubt and eccentricities.
Renu was that friend, and she is sorely missed.

43 thoughts on “The Editor of Bandit Queen

  1. Dear Shekhar
    What a wonderful tribute. Renu Saluja must have had lots of fun working with you, btw. I love that you had anger preps before watching cuts.

  2. “For me it is difficult to separate the person from the work. I have fought all my life to merge who I am with what I am and what I do”
    Dear Shekhar,
    Ditto with me. I always form my opinions of people after looking at them in totality. What they do is a part of who they are. What I do is a part of who I am. I don’t know why you had to fight to merge who you are with what you do……it should have come naturally to you. I think you mean it is really hard to stay honest in this world (both to oneself and to others) that’s why you had to fight.
    Here’s a cheers for Renu!

  3. “I would often come in and lock myself in a room. She would hear me shout and scream inside. That was because I wanted to be angry when I saw any cut of the film.”
    Dear Shekhar,
    I don’t know how it could help being angry while editing a film. That sure sounds odd to me. 🙂
    I guess all of us are allowed an eccentricity once in a while.

  4. A touching tribute Shekhar. Perhaps I am not in touch with the latest of film news and perhaps the press doesn’t give as much importance to editors as it gives to stars, but I came to know of Renu’s death through your blog. As a kid I remember reading an article on the actor Radha Saluja. It was mentioned in that article that her sister Renu was beginning a career as a film editor. Over the years Renu attained fame through her excellent work. I remember that afer seeing Bandit Queen I had told a friend “This film’s editor is Renu Saluja, her sis Radha was an actor in the early seventies.” Renu will live on through her work. In that sense she is immortal.

  5. Dear Shekhar, A google search yielded this quote “It all happened by chance and editing really got into my system. After some time I didn’t want to be a director at all.” – Renu Saluja from this website
    a visit to which is reommended to all film buffs

  6. Dear Shekhar this is such a beautiful analogy, I think Renu will certainly smile in her grave
    I have always worked better with editors that are women. Although I have a strong sense of my own feminine self, in the battle of making a film, my male side starts to dominate, and it needs to be counteracted by the feminine when it gets into editing. I also believe that the editing process is a ‘nurturing’ process.And that also is one of my great memories of Renu. Her innate sense of nurturing that she brought to her films.
    I have watched bandit queen, and it was so disturbing heart wrenching, I couldn’t get out of gloom for weeks..this is a well said tribute to Renu..

  7. I must say renu must be looking down at you all the way from heavens and smiling …her spirit will guide you Shekhar
    Tuesday is very crucial day for me as I will be appearing for a University interview & I dont know Shekhar I will make it inspite of all my credentials..U know how things move in our system..wish me luck…I need it – this job will matter lot to me as being able to make a career out of my academic attainments.

  8. I don’t know how I stumble upon this site, but it’s absolutely amazing. I love the flow of thoughts. This message is directed to Shekhar-ji and may be a little off topic so please excuse me. Shekhar-ji for your next film please do consider filming in the beautiful city of Ottawa (capital of Canada). This city has wonderful, picturesque locals and you will certainly find the city breathtaking. For more info, please check out this site:

  9. Just came to see whether something new has been posted here..*disappointed*
    I presume you busy in ur craft!
    take care

  10. I remember Renu’s sister Radha Saluja who acted in various Indian language films. She even acted with popular heros of south like NTR, Rajini and MGR. She is a brilliant and natural actor very feminine in nature.

  11. Hello Mr. Kapur,
    I am moved by your thoughts on Renu and I may sound like a materialistic freak but honestly I reached this site searching for your contact information. I am a film maker and looking for a production company to produce the film that I want to direct along with my cousin. I am sorry If i spoilt your blog but the film industry in Bombay is beyond reach for a common man like me with no contacts. So hope you understand when I post this information to contact you.
    I would like to give a complete narration and also presenting a screenplay with a back ground score. I am the writer on the project, and my cousin has composed the structured music. We have together worked on the Story line and worked out the concept.We have a team of technicians with whom we have worked out the concept called Artistic Revelations. Together we like to direct it and would like to know if you would be interested in producing this project. Please let me know how I would get in touch with you or your office to schedule an appointment.
    Looking forward to a meeting
    Manu Warrier 98215 85770
    Artistic Revelations
    Briefly about the project.
    Title – “The Story”
    Genre- Fantasy Thriller
    One Liner
    Two men in a coffee shop, talk about a spy who becomes an alchemist.
    P.S. Sorry to spoil you blog. Sincerely Manu

  12. hello shekhar,thats a lovely tribute to a person who has shared a lot of your passions!!loved what you have written and it conveys what you felt for the lady!words say so much yet convey so little!!
    May the lady rest in peace for she will always be alive in the hearts of the ones she loved and who loved her in return.
    take care

  13. Shekharji
    Your words deeply touched me
    renu must be lucky to work with u
    i hope someday i can talk to u for five minutes and gain lot of it for my life to come up
    keep smiling

  14. Its been a while you havent written. I know its stating the obvious and yet, the need to repeat the evident… It was nice reading up this page:)

  15. Hi Sekhar, I have been itching to ask this question since 1995/6, When I watched Bandit queen and perticularly the scene where She was being gang raped. I almost throwed up during that scene and took me about a week to get over it. How did you managed to film that scene? I mean the intensity that you put into that scene simply can’t be just direction!

  16. Shekhar:
    I’m not sure if it’s the right place to ask this, but I couldn’t see a link through your site where I could ask about your interaction with professionals who are no more. Since you have your best words for Renu, I thought this might be my chance to ask.
    My interest is Kishore Kumar. To me he is a brilliant singer… merely by the volume of quality songs that he had rendered. I’m under the impression that you must have interacted with him for Mr. India and other films. As a Director and/or otherwise.
    If you have any interesting interactions/incidents with him, please do share.
    Thank you,

  17. Dear Sir/Mam
    Im writing to bring to your notice that I would like to work and learn about different detailed aspects film making by assisting a distinguished, fresh and talented film-maker/ Director. I have two months experience of working as an Associate Creative Head (Trainee) in Balaji Telefilms Ltd. Mumbai.
    I have an Advanced Diploma in Media Studies and Bachelor of Arts as well. Im well-versed with all the creative and technical aspects of Video and Film- Making; apart from which I have hands on experience of editing on softwares like Avid Express Pro & Adobe Premier Pro. In addition to this, I have successfully completed my projects as Writer, Editor and Director in my college.
    Id like the opportunity to tell you more about my work experience and how my skills could contribute to the successful day-to-day operations in your organization.
    Im looking forward to hear positively from you soon.

  18. Dear Mr. Kapur,
    Some people are special even when they are alive. Your post on Renu Saluja does not come across as words bundled up to pay tribute to someone not around anymore. It reflects the life in her death.
    I am a fan of maestro RD Burman and have been interacting with many people who met him when he was alive and some after he died, through his music.
    I would love to hear from you about him. His music forms a part of the fragrance that your garden named Masoom still has intact.
    I dont know if this is the right platform. But as an ardent fan, will wait to hear from you about him.
    cheers and all the best,
    Gaurav Sharma

  19. Hello Mr Kapur,
    I’m trying to reach the family of Radha/ Renu Saluja…to trace a long lost friend…who knew them in turn. Would be grateful for / appreciate any contact information whatsoever.
    Tks/ best regards,

  20. Hi, I just wondered if there were any plans to release Bandit queen on DVD in it’s original aspect ratio. I can’t seen to find a copy that isn’t 1.33:1 and I’m sure is wasn’t meant to be seen that way! I love the film and would love to see it as it was intended.
    Many thanx

  21. unfortunately Matt that is the only one that I have seen. There seems to be a peculiar apathy amongst the producers and tose that own the original negative. I have even tried to convince them to allow me to do a director’s commentary on it, but they would not respond. Oh well, shekhar

  22. R.e. A proper DVD release of Bandit Queen.
    Thank you for your kind response to my query. Whenever Bandit Queen is shown by Channel 4 / Film4, it is in the original aspect ratio. They must have a digital copy of the film in that ratio to show on TV. Maybe it would be worthwhile talking to them as co-producers about a decent DVD release that does your wonderful film justice on the small screen?
    Thanx again

  23. Dear Shekhar ji
    Please please please do follow the following link if you are not an avid watcher of Saregamapa on Zee Tv .
    I request you to send a message of congratulations to Mussarat Abbas for such a stupendous redention of the song Saanwre from your pic Bandit Queen.. I am no relation of his but such a mindblowing performance deserves due kudos & I am sure his day will be made by hearing from you.. do it only after hearing & seeing the video..
    Dr. Neeraj Kaul
    Gwaior M.P.

  24. Dear Mr. Shekhar,
    Following are the two songs from your film “Bandit Queen” in the voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan :
    1.More saiya to hai pardes
    2.Sajna tore bina jiya mora nahi lage
    May I know the name/s of the lyricist/s and the music composer ?
    -Dr.Neeraj Tripathi

  25. shekhar sir,
    i am living in a backward area of westbengal state. i have listen the songs of bandit queen in cinema hall. i tried to get the audio cd of the above film, but i failed. i could not found it any where of west bengal. sir, can u send me the audio cd of bandit queen by post? i will pay its price through vpp/post office. please mail me.

  26. Hello- Today I was going through my trunk of old photos,letters and memorabilia and came across 1973 publications of The Word and Alpha that I had contributed to, along with Renu Saluja, when we were students of the Rajendra Prasad Institure of Communication Studies.
    I wanted to find out what Renu was doing now, so looked her up on the Web. I was so sorry to find that she died in 2000 – she was younger than me too. Life isn’t fair.
    However, I am so glad to find that she found her special calling in life and that she was a successful Film Editor. A couple years ago I saw Bandit Queen (not noticing that Renu was editor) and found it a powerful film. I remember Renu as an intellectually curious woman who was full of fun. We knew each other only for a year while we worked on our diplomas at RPIC, but she remains in my memory to this day.
    Susan Mahoney (Bagchi)

  27. Dear Shekharji,
    I am just an anthusiastic film watcher. Today we friends were just discussing films we liked most with recent “Slumdod Millionair” success. We happened to remember “Dharavi” thats where I searched the net for info on the film. Soon we were reading Wikipedia and discover that Renu Saluja’s work. We love all her films and her work. If ordinary person like me can get effected by her work, definetely you people must be more than us.

  28. Dear Shekharji,
    I am surpirsed to link on top your page “The Gang Rape Scene in Bandit Queen”. I am surprsed that person of your intelligence need crutches of Sex to be remembered. Or is it sex sells in various forms.

  29. Dear Shekharji,
    I am surpirsed to see a link on top your page “The Gang Rape Scene in Bandit Queen”. I am surprsed because person of your intelligence need crutches of Sex to be remembered. Or is it sex sells in various forms? correct me if I have interpreted things differently.

  30. Indeed very touching. Experiences which move you. But it’s interesting that none of the posts on BQ contain a single reference to Nusrat Fateh. The song “Sanware” was without doubt a masterpiece of the OST. We would like to hear about your experience with the Great Man too.

  31. I did not know Renu Saluja till an hour back. She is quoted in an essay by Rajani Majumdar titled ‘Ruin and the Uncanny City: Memory, Despair and Death in Parinda’. Then I looked up Parinda in Wikipedia where I found a link to a page on Renu. I had just discovered that some of personal favorites from bollywood were edited by her. From this pleasant discover, I was only beginning to fantasize about chances of contacting her for an interview or maybe assisting her if the opportunity arises. Of course, these ideas quickly droop in dismay now to discover that she is no more. Shekhar’s tribute adds to the sense of loss that i feel. But I am glad that i have made my personal discovery of Renu Saluja. Knowledge of Renu will hopefully make me more perceptive of her touch in my favorite works and hopefully I will learn more of editing as a serious craft, to which I have never paid much attention earlier. To that extent Renu has brought something alive for me today. Thanks Rajani and thanks Shekhar for making this fortunate introduction.

  32. Shekhar sir,
    For me Bandit queen is like a textbook for all aspects of film making. It takes time for books to become literature and films to become cinema, but Bandit queen is a born cinema.I wish if can assist you someday, not to learn techniques of film making but to learn how to go beyond film making. How to make a film, a human document. My film school taught me techniques of film making, but they cannot teach you the reason to make a film. And that’s what makes all the difference. That’s what makes Satyajit ray, Ritwik ghatak, Bimal roy, Hrishi da and Shekhar kapoor….

  33. I was so very inspired by the film that I wrote a 27 page paper whe i was studying in At ISS , the hague ..

    Your can find it at ( Chowk: India Pakistan Ideas Identities)
    please do read and get back to me …

    write mukta srivastava at chowk site and you will find it ..


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