PHOOLAN: The Incredible Story of A Rape Survivor, Rebel, Bandit Queen and Member of India’s Parliament

Taking a hard look at women’s rights and the fight for equality.

“If a mother wanted to protect her daughter, she knew all she had to do was say to the rapist that Phoolan Devi would punish them. And I did. I dealt out justice. ‘Who stole from you? Who beat you? Who raped your daughter?’ It was my vengeance, and the vengeance of all women.”  — Phoolan Devi


PHOOLAN is a film that tells the amazing, true story of Phoolan Devi, one of the most extraordinary  and controversial women of our times. Born in 1963 to a poor, low-caste Indian family, as a child she experienced the theft of her family’s small plot of land, and physical and sexual violence when she tried to do something about it.

In an unheard of act for an Indian woman, let alone a teenager, she took justice into her own hands and became leader of a gang of male bandits, taking revenge on those who had harmed her and her family. The ‘Bandit Queen’ roamed the countryside like a female Robin Hood, ransacking rich landowners and giving money to the poor, and dispensing rough justice to those who raped low-caste girls. Her actions were a dangerous challenge to the ancient caste system and social order based on the oppression of women.

After serving 11 years in prison she entered politics and became the first low-caste woman elected to India’s parliament, even though she couldn’t read or  write.  In Parliament she fought for the lower castes and championed the rights of women, until her assassination in 2001.

Phoolan Devi’s sense of justice was so strong and her need for respect so uncompromising that she prevailed against forces far more powerful than she was. And because her story asks universal questions about women’s rights, violence, and social justice, it raises issues that have significance for all of us today.

03 August 1995 – Phoolan Devi with VP Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan – HT Photo by Sanjay Sharma.


Making this film is a personal journey through which I will be visiting the dark corners of my past to shed light on, and hopefully defend, what I believe to be the unalienable right every human being is born with: the right to be treated with respect and dignity. I was born in Iran and came to Canada as a refugee in the end of the 80s. In post-revolution Iran, I experienced injustice first hand. I lost members of my family to firing squads for political ‘crimes’ as petty as distributing opposition newspapers and for joining human rights groups.

 I know what it means to be denied dignity because of having a different opinion, ideology or belief. Phoolan Devi was denied dignity because she belonged to a ‘different’ caste, a ‘different’ class and a ‘different’ sex. The underlying mechanisms of oppression in my past experience and in Phoolan’s life are the same.

 What excites me most about ‘Phoolan’ is the opportunity to explore the resilience of the human spirit in the face of incredible odds. This is an issue that is close to my heart. What makes people rise above their circumstances?  What message can such an act give to tens of millions of people around the world who are denied human dignity on a daily basis? How empowering can such an act be?”                                                     — Hossein Fazeli

17 April 1996 – Phoolan Devi Election Campaigning Mirzapur – HT Photo by Girish Srivastava.


Fights for equal rights. Fights against sexual abuse of women. Fights for freedom. Who is your Phoolan Devi?  You can be part of  the voice in raising awareness of this new documentary PHOOLAN and speaking up for women’s right and injustice around the world.  Join the PHOOLAN kickstarter here and share your stories with hashtag #PhoolanTheMovie

“The revolution for women and girls in India is growing day-by-day!  And Phoolan had a lot to do with that.  Women are speaking out about sexual violence and injustices.  Documentaries are playing a strong role in this revolution, and our hope is that with this film it will be added to a significant canon of films that will help elevate the position of women in Indian society and around the world.”

– Liz Marshall, Co–Executive Producer

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