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Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen featured in The Hindu

Phoolan Devi comes to life in an opera to be staged next year in New York

Phoolan Devi, India’s notorious Bandit Queen, continues to live on in popular imagination. Rape victim and avenging angel, oppressor and oppressed, she finally won respectability, and a seat in Parliament, embraced Buddhism, before a barrage of bullets ended it all in 2001. She was 37.

Rape. Murder. Bloodshed. Violence. Vengeance. Her short, chaotic life was indeed the stuff of drama, and several artistic ventures have tried to capture this turbulence. Among the most successful attempts was Shekhar Kapur’s film Bandit Queen, which won international fame for both the director and Seema Biswas for her powerful portrayal of the protagonist.

In her latest avatar, Phoolan Devi is the central figure in an opera: “Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen”. A multi-media chamber opera in the making, it is co-sponsored by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) and Da Capo Chamber Players. It is directed by Tom Diamond and choreographed by Nandini Sikand, to music composed by Shirish Korde, with a libretto by Anushree Roy. Over wine and cheese at the Saffron Art Space in Manhattan, Aroon Shivdasani, the director of IAAC, brought together several New Yorkers with the creative team behind the opera.

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