Mumbai: Shekhar Kapur remembers Mala Sen, writer of his finest cinematic work `Bandit Queen`, and says he couldn`t have made the film without her and that her intense attachment to unravelling Phoolan Devi`s life was an amazing fulcrum in her life.
Sen died Monday of cancer at the Tata Memorial Hospital here. She was 64.
"I`m so relieved that she didn`t die in London. Mumbai where she passed away, is a better place to die. London and the rest of the West can be awfully clinical and detached about death. India is far more community-driven and compassionate about death," said Kapur, 65, who is in London right now.
Sen wrote the screenplay for Kapur`s highly-acclaimed 1994 moive "Bandit Queen", which chornicled the life of bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi. She was killed in 2001.
Recalling his collaboration with Sen, he said: "Her attachment to researching on the life of Phoolan Devi was deep intense and absolute, so much so that I think in many ways she was profoundly influenced by Phoolan, specially on the question of male domination. Because of what Phoolan had gone through, Mala became passionate on the subject of male domination."
Interestingly, Kapur`s insight into Phoolan Devi was based completely on Sen`s `Diaries Of Phoolan Devi`.
"You see, I had no access to Phoolan. I couldn`t meet her even once because she was in jail and I was not able to disguise myself as someone else to visit her. Mala could do that. She repeatedly and regularly met Phoolan in jail posing as someone else. She spent years trying to understand Phoolan`s heart, soul and mind," he said.
Kapur admits "Bandit Queen" couldn`t have happened without Sen.
"My interpretation of Phoolan`s character was entirely based on how she saw the character. I had to go entirely by Mala`s vision. And there was so much to take from Mala`s interpretation. It was almost like the two women had become bonded in pain and empathy," said the director who considers `Bandit Queen` his best film to date.
"It is the only film I made without any commercial pressures. I made Phoolan Devi`s life on celluloid exactly how I wanted to. And it wouldn`t have been possible without Mala. She knew Phoolan. I could only know the Phoolan that Mala knew," he added.
Kapur drifted away from Mala once the screenplay of `Bandit Queen` was complete.
"It happens. Once you start shooting a film your world-view is governed by the people who are an immediate part of the film. I was shooting the film in the wilderness and so cut off from everything that when the Mumbai blasts happened in 1993 I had no clue about it… Mala moved on.
"We`d run into one another in London. We had many long conversations on possible subsequent collaborations. But they didn`t materialise. I feel Mala`s intense attachment to unravelling Phoolan`s life was an amazing fulcrum in her life."