PHOOLAN Movie Trailer

Phoolan-Logo-Writing-no background01[1].

Susie Coelho - Executive Producer - Interviewee

Phoolan is a documentary film about the extraordinary life of an illiterate village girl, gang-rape survivor, bandit leader and finally parliamentarian. This is the story of one woman’s fight against incredible odds for justice and dignity. Known as India’s Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi is considered by many to be one of the most extraordinary and controversial women of our time.


The film is told through interviews with living witnesses - those who knew Phoolan best, including members of her family and her gang of outlaws; people who were present at important moments in her life, archive photos and footage, interviews with Phoolan herself; and through the use of dramatic re-enactment (animation in this case) as well as an interview with Susie Coelho, who after reading about Devi’s surrender on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, was inspired to make the journey to India to meet and interview Devi and her all male gang, in India’s Gwalior Central jail. She becomes the friend and confidante of this rebel against oppression.  On screen, Coelho discusses important parts of her personal interactions with Phoolan Devi in prison, and Susie is used as a key figure to retell the story of Phoolan’s rebellious childhood. 




1984 - Susie Coelho interviewed on The Merv Griffin Show after interviewing

the Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi in prison



Susie Coelho - Author


Phoolan Devi


Rani Coelho


Susie Coelho

“In my village, you’re not allowed to choose who you want to marry, they will throw you out of the village...

Even if it’s a leper you have to marry him!” Phoolan Devi

By 1983, Phoolan Devi, the legendary and controversial India’s Bandit Queen was wanted dead or alive and was the subject of the largest manhunt in India. Phoolan evaded capture for three years and transformed into a female Robin Hood, avenging abuses against women, and dispensing her own brand of rough justice to high-caste men who raped low-caste girls.  Devi overcame devastating physical, sexual, and psychological abuse to fight against her Karma, for justice and equal rights. After her surrender with her infamous all male gang, and more than a decade of incarceration, Phoolan was elected a member of India’s Parliament.  Like Mahatma Gandhi, Devi not only fought for the rights of the lower caste but became a major inspirational force to her people.  After reading about Devi’s surrender in the Los Angeles Times, Coelho, embarks on a journalistic venture to India to meet Devi in prison….and becomes the friend and confidante of this rebel against oppression.

“The truth was simple: we were Brahmin. We were pure. And everyone else was something less.” – Rani Coelho


Rani, the author’s mother, forsook her tight-knit Brahmin family, her privileged birthright, to free herself from the patriarchal societal expectations, suppressing her individuality. Susie discovers her mother’s journal and begins to understand her mother’s rebellious struggle that led her from India to America. Her mother’s journal also provided the missing pieces regarding the difficult cultural barriers that she had to navigate, how it had changed her, and how remnants of some of these same hurdles remain for women and immigrants even in a country as comparatively free as America.

“By 1983, most would agree that my existence was a charmed one.

But, for all my good fortune, I found myself feeling strangely hollow.” – Susie Coelho

Susie Coelho’s quest to understand her identity leads to her perilous journey from the celebrity Hollywood lifestyle to a jail deep in Central India to meet the notorious Phoolan Devi.  This non-fiction narrative weaves together the stories of India’s low-caste village girl , Devi and the author’s high-caste Brahmin mother, Rani. Both these remarkable women, who struggled against India’s oppressive caste system and patriarchal society, inspired Susie’s life and will inspire many women around the globe.