It took very long to say yes for ‘Bandit Queen’, says Seema Biswas - Hindustan Times
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It took very long to say yes for ‘Bandit Queen’, says Seema Biswas

Aug 10, 2023 10:13 PM IST

During a panel discussion at Nirmal Pandey Film Fest, Biswas spoke about the high stakes of playing the role of Phoolan Devi in the 1994 film ‘Bandit Queen’, and how she made the cut

LUCKNOW Actors Seema Biswas, Raghubir Yadav and Hitesh Sharma, among other renowned personalities, were present at the film festival held at the Bhartendu Natya Akademi on Thursday to honour late Bollywood actor Nirmal Pandey on his birth anniversary.

A panel discussion organised at the 4th Nirmal Pandey Film Festival at Bhartendu Natya Akademi in Lucknow on Thursday. (Deepak Gupta/HT)
A panel discussion organised at the 4th Nirmal Pandey Film Festival at Bhartendu Natya Akademi in Lucknow on Thursday. (Deepak Gupta/HT)

During a panel discussion at the end of the film screenings, Biswas spoke about the high stakes of playing the role of Phoolan Devi in the 1994 film ‘Bandit Queen’ directed by Shekhar Kapur, and how she made the cut.

“At first, he (Shekhar Kapur) did not believe that I could play the character… It took very long to say ‘yes’ even after that,” said the actor.

The event was organised by the Nirmal Pandey Memorial Trust founded by director Anil Dubey, and the journalism and mass communication department of Shia PG College. The film festival showcased 15 short films, two documentaries, one feature film, and held a special screening of 2022 release ‘Dada Lakhmi’, starring Hitesh Sharma, and made by actor-director Yashpal Sharma.

Raghubir Yadav sang a few lines of Haryanvi folk music for the audience, sharing that his secret to playing complex characters was imagining the dreams that the characters might see and the things they aspire to, as his own.

Seema Biswas pointed out that the special screening of ‘Dada Lakhmi’ reminded her of the late Nirmal Pandey. “He also used to do strange crazy things out of passion like the main character of the film,” she reminisced.

Artistes were felicitated for their work in the films that were screened. The best feature film award went to ‘Ganda Bachcha’, and the best director award was given to the maker of the same film - Anupam Ghosh. ‘Ittar’ won the best short film award at the ceremony. Awards in other categories like best music, best editor, best child actor, best cinematographer among others were also given away.

‘Was advised to ask for script before agreeing to a role’

“I was working on a different theatre production at that time, and when Shekhar Kapur saw me off stage, he did not believe I had it in me to do the role of Phoolan Devi,” recalled Seema Biswas.

“Somebody advised him to see me perform - and after he did, he began pursuing me for the role,” she added.

Biswas shared that she had her reservations about playing a character like Phoolan Devi. The actor said she had been advised by colleagues to always ask for the script before agreeing to a role, and once she saw the script for ‘Bandit Queen’, she found out about the explicit scene in the film.

“I was not fully comfortable with appearing nude in front of the camera - but Shekhar Kapur said, ‘I do not want to show unpleasant things in a beautiful or palatable way,’ - which resonated with me,” shared Biswas.

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