Lisa Ray, co-star of Amazon Prime’s Four More Shots Please series, is lending her voice to Phoolan, an upcoming live-action and animated documentary about Phoolan Devi, India’s true-life bandit queen, while Smallville star Kristin Kreuk will executive produce.
The feature doc, to be directed by Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Hossein Martin Fazeli, follows Devi from being born into a poor village family, sold off as a child bride and enduring multiple gang rapes, before responding by leading a bloody gang of male bandits as a female Robin Hood.
As a legendary Indian outlaw, Devi dealt out her own justice to Indian men who raped poor women. Upon being captured, she was charged with many crimes and was imprisoned for 11 years. But the government ultimately dropped all charges and she was released. Devi then ran for and won election to the Parliament of India to champion the rights of lower-caste women, only to be assassinated in 2001 by an upper-caste man.
Phoolan is being shopped to international distributors this week at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto. Canadian-Indian actress Ray, as the main voiceover artist, will also executive produce the project, which depicts Devi as a sexual abuse victim for the #MeToo and Time’s Up eras.
“It’s a true honor to be involved in such an important documentary. Phoolan Devi is legendary in India and I couldn’t think of a better time in human history for her incredible life story to be retold,” Ray said in a statement.
A portion of Phoolan will be told using animation from Global Mechanic. Devi previously was the subject of the 1995 indie drama Bandit Queen, directed by Shekhar Karpur and starring Seema Biswas and Nirmal Pandey.
Fazeli has helmed three earlier women’s rights documentaries, including The Tale of the Two Nazanins, a film about an Iranian teenage girl on death row and which launched an international campaign to save her life.
Jack Silberman will produce Phoolan, while Gillian Greenfeld is a co-director. Also executive producing is Fariba Farjam, Rose Bhura, James Tocher and Shenny Italia, with Adria Budd-Johnson, Sammie Astaneh and Liz Marshall serving as co-executive producers and Jamil Kharrazi as senior executive producer.