People: Bandit Queen threatens a blazing row

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The Independent Online
AS IF Phoolan Devi, India's 'bandit queen', had not suffered enough. After abduction, gang- rape and 11 years in jail, accused of killing 18 high-caste men, she now complains that the film portraying her eventful life is a distortion that exploits her. She threatens to set herself on fire if it is released in India without her permission. 'I wish they had killed me before they made the film,' she groans. 'If the Censor Board clears it without showing it to me, I will commit self-immolation in front of the Board's office.'

Bandit Queen, the movie, has been hailed in Cannes and Edinburgh as a breakthrough for Indian cinema. But Ms Devi accuses the director, Shekhar Kapur and the producer, Sandeep Singh Bedi, of dishonesty. They say the movie is based on Ms Devi's journals that she kept in jail. But Ms Devi, who has not been shown the film, says it is full of errors.

'They have shown me naked to the press. People come to me and say I look very sexy. I find all this humiliating,' she says. 'Kapur and Bedi want to cheat me. They want to use my name to sell a fake story to the world. Why else haven't they shown it to me?' Mr Bedi says he will show her the film in private. 'We feel it could be traumatic for her to go through her past all over again.'

After release from jail this year, suffering from cancer, Ms Devi married a high-caste Thakur and gossip says this is why she denounces the film. 'I turned into a bandit to fight oppression, be it oppression from the upper caste or my own people. There was no caste-based reason,' she insists.

ANOTHER queen has been speaking out. Cambodia's half-Italian Queen Monique (nee Monique Izzy, a former beauty queen) sent a letter to the Khmer Rouge leader, Khieu Samphan, urging him to release three Western hostages kidnapped by his guerrillas.

Queen Monique, consort of King Norodom Sihanouk for the last 20 years or so, wants Mr Khieu to intervene with his local commander and request him to 'release as soon as possible all those he keeps as hostages, Khmers and foreigners.' The Queen, renowned for her splendid jewels, made her appeal as honorary president of the Cambodian Red Cross.

The guerrillas say Britain, France and Australia must stop military aid to Phnom Penh by today if they want the Westerners released. If the guerrillas let their captives go, the Queen concludes regally, 'I am sure the whole world will be thankful to you.'

AS BRAZILIANS warm up for elections on 3 October, thugs who attacked Jose Vicente Brizola, son of the presidential candidate, Leonel Brizola, were, it seems, engaging in a spot of pre-election intimidation. That was Brizola Snr's claim and, for once, the police agreed with him. The attack was part of a conspiracy to blame Brizola pere - who used to be governor of Rio - for an increase in crime, they said.

Brizola fils, who seeks re- election as a congressman, was injured when his driver, fleeing a kidnap attempt, rammed into a truck on the road between Rio and Sao Paulo. A bandit whipped his briefcase from the car and fled, firing into the air. Jose Vicente has received threats after accusing rivals of pilfering public funds.

CNN supremo Ted Turner has skin cancer, he announced at the weekend, before heading off for hospital. Mr Turner, 55, was to make a speech at Georgia State University's graduation ceremony, but spoke for less than five minutes. 'I'm going straight from here to a skin cancer operation,' he said, and added: 'The one piece of advice I can give you is put on sunscreen and wear a hat.' A spokesman later said a 'minor' cancer was removed from his lip. 'The procedure was successful.'