Bandit Queen, Putli Bai and more: Female dons in films, before Shraddha Kapoor’s Haseena Parkar

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Mumbai: Gangsters and dons have been a favorite with Bollywood filmmakers. From Dawood Ibrahim to Arun Gawli, we have perhaps chronicled more than a dozen crime lords onscreen and most films glorify the men themselves if not their life choices. However, when it comes to portraying the female dons on silver screen, we do not have too many examples.
For almost half a century of multiple films made on male dons ranging from Haji Mastan to Dawood Ibrahim, we just have a handful of films about female dons. These include both the fictional ones and films inspired by the real life characters. Now, Shraddha Kapoor is all set to portray Dawood’s sister Haseena Parkar in Apoorva Lakhia’s eponymous film.
With Haseena Parkar releasing on September 22, we take a look at some of films on female dons that Bollywood has given us:
Bandit Queen
Based on the real life bandit Phoolan Devi, Shekhar Kapur’s 1994 film showed the grim life of Chambal dacoits. While the film was adjudged the Best Hindi Film, Seema Biswas won a National Award for her portrayal.
Putli Bai
Based on Chambal’s Gauhar Bano, the 1972 film chronicled her life. Bano is considered India’s first woman dacoit who was initially a nautch girl. She ruled the forests of Chambal between 1950 and 1956. Jaya Mala essayed the titular role in the film that proved to be a box office hit.
Godmother
Considered as one of the best performances of Shabana Azmi, Godmother was the biographical story of Santokben Jadeja, who ran the mafia operations of Porbandar (Gujarat) in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The movie bagged six National Awards, including one for Shabana in 1999.
Fukrey
Richa Chadha was in her elements in this surprise hit where she played the role of Bholi Punjaban. The character was loosely based on Sonu Punjaban alias Geeta Arora, a flesh trade kingpin from Delhi. Richa will reprise her role for the film’s sequel that will release in December 2017.
10 Bollywood actresses who played gangster on screen
From ‘Gabbar’ to ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, Bollywood had only male gangsters to boast about. But we bring to you the brash, sassy and no-nonsense actresses who dared to play dacoits or gangsters on screen.
1. Neha Dhupia was seen playing a dreaded gangster who hates men in 2010 film ‘Phas Gaye Re Obama’.
2. Seema Biswas’s portrayal of a real life dacoit- Phoolan Devi in ‘Bandit Queen’ turned out to be the controversial film. Seema also won a National Award for her role in 1996.
3. Nandita Das plays the role of a female don in 2003 film ‘Supari’. However, she was seen in a different avatar in the film sans any guns.
4. Another actress to don the garb of a gangster on screen is none other than Shabana Azmi. Shabana plays Rambhi who picks up gun to take revenge for her husband’s death. Apart from mouthing a few abuses, her diction and body language, ‘Godmother’ makes Shabana Azmi one of the most versatile actress of Bollywood.
5.’Khallas girl’ Eesha Koppikar was plays a simple village girl who goes on to become a female crime lord in 2011 film ‘Shabri’.
6. Madhu Shalini’s role of a female gangster in Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Department’ was much appreciated. The role had its own shades of grey.
7. Sridevi also portrayed the role of a dacoit in 1988 film ‘Sherni’. When female actresses were busy playing the run of the mill roles, Sridevi took the plunge.
8. Pratima Kazmi plays a powerful gangster in ‘Ek Hasina Thi’, who meets Urmila Matondkar in the prison. Though her character portrays a compassionate side in the film.
9. Vidya Balan plays the role of a local gang lord’s wife. Though she doesn’t really play the role of a gangster or dacoit in the film, but definitely plays the role of a femme fatale.
10. Madhuri Dixit, who has donned many avatars on screen, will also be seen playing the role of a gangster in ‘Gulab Gang’.

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