From hardened criminal, Seema Parihar becomes an actress in Wounded. NANDINI NAIR traces the journey
Accused of murder, kidnap and loot, she reigned from Etawah through Auriya to Kanpur. She had an award of Rs.20,000 on her head. Today she is the lead actress of Krishna Mishra's Wounded. She is Seema Parihar. Seema Biswas played Phoolan Devi in Bandit Queen but in Wounded, Seema Parihar plays herself. A dacoit released on bail now acting in a movie based on her life. Outlandish but true! From inception to completion, Wounded has had to fight against courts and Censors. It was shot despite the threats of Parihar's husband, notorious dacoit Nirbhay Gujjar. The hand that held country guns is decorated with mehendi today. But still she is intimidating. With her reputation and presence. The ruggedness of the ravines is furrowed in her expression and demeanour. Standing tall, she exclaims, "Aaise?" to photographers' requests, clearly not used to following orders. A maroon stick-on bindi streaks through her forehead, leading to a severe ponytail. But her smile is a surprise: It lights up her face.
Parihar's story is the stuff of movies, as it evokes both pathos and distaste. Media and her own publicity elevate her headcount, but S.S.P of Etawah District Ashok Jain, says she is accused of around 20 crimes. She was abducted at 13 by dacoits because her father refused to marry her off to a powerful Rajput. In captivity she was assaulted. Her father's land was confiscated. Seeking retribution she turned into a dacoit. She disowns the name ` Dsyu Sundari'. With irritation, she says that the term is used for convenience by the media. Her euphemism for a dacoit is "Jungle mein rehna". She says that when the public sees the movie they will see what the message is. She makes only fleeting eye contact. But adds she wants to show the public, "Ki mahilaye shauk se jungle me nahi jaati hain." (Women do not choose to become dacoits.) Director Krishna Mishra asserts that the movie does not glamorise violence.She complains, "Mere sir mein tension ho rahi hai," and threatens to leave. She walks with legs slightly splayed as if to cover as much ground as possible. She concedes only when pacified by her coterie. She describes that at first she refused the movie because, "Filmi duniya mein bahut nangapan hain." (There is a lot of nudity in the film world.) But on the advice of friends in the jail she decided that she would meet Mishra, later agreeing to feature in the movie. only on the condition that it would be shot in the Chambal ravines.
Acting in an autobiography means re-living previous experiences. Asked if she found this difficult, she says with a smirk, "Jab insaan apne bhavishya ko badalna chahta hain, fir koi tension ki baat nahi hai." (When a person wants to change her future, then there is nothing to worry.) Life has changed in tone and texture. Previously she could only speak in expletives, now the expletives are absent. Politics has often rehabilitated criminals in India. Asked, Parihar says she has no political aspirations but also confesses that she had considered the Shiv Sena. She did not find acting hard though. On the first day of shooting, the lights blinded her. But soon she grew accustomed. Now slapping her knees and leaning forward she says, "Acting me koi problem nahi hai." Is she a victim, victimiser, criminal or an actress? She won't say. You decide when the movie is released this October.