Revolver Rani is not Phoolan Devi

 

Atul Anand

Atul 1The film 'Revolver Rani' is about a Chambal based female dacoit/politician Alka Singh (Kangna Ranaut). She takes up arms after her father is killed by his upper caste brethren. She dresses up like a cross between Michael Jackson and Phoolan Devi. Unlike Phoolan Devi she wasn't compelled to take up arms because of caste violence. Alka Singh aka Revolver Rani is not Phoolan Devi. The reviews of the film in the mainstream media, don't talk about the caste background of Revolver Rani. It is one of those films which pretends to be realistic, to be trying to portray the dire tale of the marginalised groups in this country.

In one instance in the film, Alka Singh is shown accusing her upper caste opponent of taking a bribe from a corporation and appropriating Adivasi lands. The manner in which she cries 'Adivasi-Adivasi' in the film seems extremely superficial. In the entire film, not for a single moment are the Adivasi and their issues shown. A similar example can be found in the movie 'Rockstar' where a banner with a slogan of Tibet's freedom movement was planted in a song while we kept searching for the Tibet issue through the rest of the film. We were left wondering why the hero kept yelling 'sadda haq' ('our right') and trying to sound 'radical'.

The opening sequence of the film is clearly 'inspired' by the James Bond series where you see bullets and blood splattering the sky. Out of the blue, Revolver Rani is shown standing against the backdrop of a Marxist symbol. We wonder why Revolver Rani is shown living a luxurious and extravagant life in the movie. Every now and then Alka Singh fires bullets in Rajnikant style. The mainstream film critics are branding the movie as a 'black comedy' and Revolver Rani is being compared with Phoolan Devi. However, it seems more of a film which reinforces Brahminical values. The lady, who took up arms against the stalwarts of her caste, doesn't forget to abide by the laws of casteist and patriarchal Hindu society. She religiously follows the norms of Karva Chauth and fasts for the long life of her husband.

revolver-rani

If Revolver Rani is not Phoolan Devi, then who does she represent? The answer lies in the film itself. In the climax, Alka Singh fights a decisive battle with her upper caste adversaries on the roof of a guest house. It is not a coincidence that the name of the guest house is Rani Laxmibai Guest House. The director has done his best to make the battle look like the 'epic' last battle of Rani Laxmibai. Alka Singh represents the upper caste ruler Rani Laxmibai who fought for power and privilege, not for some social revolution. In the last shot of the film, Alka Singh is shown lying down wounded in an alleged 'rebel Adivasi' camp in the woods, ready to be reborn as a 'Marxist goddess' and the savior of the Adivasis.

Interestingly,  we had seen a real life parallel of a 'Marxist goddess' recently. An author, who didn't have any record of interacting with Ambedkar and Dalit issues, was given the mighty job of introducing Ambedkar to the world. She was prepared to be established as a savior of Dalit causes. She responded callously to the Dalits who raised their objections against the appropriation of Dalit knowledge by saying that "if they wish they can write more introductions to the book" (as if the Dalits can get the same opportunities as her!). Perhaps the 'revolution' will be led by such self-proclaimed 'anti-caste communists'.

Please find the Hindi version of the article here.

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Atul is currently pursuing M. A. in Media & Cultural Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He can be reached on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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