Daku Rani (1998)
Cast: Saima, Shaan, Moammar Rana
Director: Syed Noor
Nutshell: Lollywood reworking of Bandit Queen theme turns into twisted form of feminism
This revenge hotchpotch is a regurgitation of the Phoolan Devi Bandit Queen theme given local treatment and adaptation.
There’s nothing new on display here though the film is a bizarre sort of closeted almost schizophrenic feminist statement. Events on screen are dominated by the powerful central character of Daku Rani, acted with admirable gusto by tall, rangy Saima.
It is a woman dominated film yet perversely it contains unprecedented scenes of degradation to women. The film is replete with scores of lurid rape or attempted rape scenes, and at least half the population of men are depicted as morally bankrupt, sexually depraved animals to whom the only tangible law is one of the primitive jungle. It is hardly surprising that in this context that incidents like the one of the Dutch tourist’s assault by bathing morons in Lahore are in fact not even more commonplace than they are.
The series of rape scenes in which women are being brutalized far outnumber those where a young couple might be holding hands or in embrace. It appears that hate and violence are far more acceptable and indeed regarded as normal while any display of affection is not permissible. There is one shocker of a scene where the evil Lords of the village sentence poor Saima and her father to have their faces blackened and then dragged through the village and left to die on top of a barren hill, manacled so that they cannot escape their death by dehydration and starvation.
OK, it’s not uncommon for the evil villains to be shown to be torturing their hapless subjects but the real shocker is a scene where the group of Lords physically humiliate a defenceless girl in public – aiming their kicks viciously at her belly and abdomen without any semblance of remorse. It’s a contradiction of sorts where a supposedly feminist film depicts so much degradation against them. Clearly, the film is simply an out and out exploitationer which is merely trying to justify itself with its “correct moral” and message.
The notorious I Spit On Your Grave appears to be a role model plotline for a complete genre of sub continental film making which is a frightening indictment of the state of our own society. Violence, degradation and more violence. Performance wise Saima dominates proceedings turning in a fairly worthy effort.
Shaan has a sagely sort of special appearance as a detached soul bearing the considerable burden of a tortured past. His performance is undermined by excessive mannerisms and utterly typically Filmi dialogue delivery.
Moammar Rana doesn’t have too much scope and doesn’t even get to remove his shirt even once! The songs are not worth mentioning but the production values are certainly a few cuts above the usual Lollywood fare without being at all polished. It’s yet another “ladies first choice” exploitation revamping of the I Spit on Your Grave scenario.