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Who really was Gangubai Kathiawadi and can Alia Bhatt do her justice?

Gangubai came to be known as the Madam of Kamathipura for being an influential pimp in the city with underworld connections, peddling drugs, and ordering murders

Published: 27th February 2021 05:15 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2021 06:17 PM   |  A+A-

The film has raised many eyebrows at the casting of Alia Bhatt for the titular role of Gangubai.

The film has raised many eyebrows at the casting of Alia Bhatt for the titular role of Gangubai. (Photo | YouTube Screengrab, Twitter)

Online Desk

CHENNAI: The official teaser for Alia Bhatt's 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' dropped on February 24. This highly-anticipated Sanjay Leela Bansali film has raised many eyebrows after the casting of Alia Bhatt in the titular role of Gangubai.

The film is based on the chapter on Gangubai Kothewali in the book Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of women from the ganglands by Hussain Zaidi.

So, who was Gangubai and why was she famous? 
According to Hussain Zaidi's Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Gangubai was a resident of Kathiawad in Gujarat, due to which she was called Gangubai Kathiawadi. Her real name was Ganga Harjivandas Kathiawadi.

Gangubai ran away from home at the age of 16 with her father's accountant. They came to Mumbai, only for him to sell her to a brothel for Rs 500. Gangubai's dream of becoming an actress was hence quashed.

She would go on earn a name for herself in the years to come. Soon after this, a member of mafia don Karim Lala's gang raped Gangubai. She went to Karim Lala to demand justice and tied a rakhi to make him 'her brother'. Being the sister of Karim Lala had its advantages and Gangubai soon became one of the most successful female dons. 

She went on to operate a sex racket in Hera Mandi red-light district and owned a brothel in Mumbai's Kamathipura. She came to be known as the Madam of Kamathipura for being an influential pimp in the city with underworld connections, peddling drugs, and ordering murders. In the 60s, she was the only brothel owner to own a Bentley, and it is said that she never kept any girl in her brothel without their consent. Later in life, she met Jawaharlal Nehru to discuss the plight of sex workers and improve their living conditions.

What is right and wrong with the casting of Alia Bhatt in this role?
There is no doubt that Alia Bhatt is one of the top actresses in the country and a rare case where nepotism may have paid off. She has proved her acting prowess in movies like Highway, Raazi and Udta Punjab. The actress has a range of emotions she can tap into and is one of the youngest and most versatile actors of our times. Alia has left no stone unturned in her preparation for this character as well. She even learned Hindi and Marathi cuss words. 

Despite this, her being cast in this role does seem odd. To begin with, Alia looks too young to play Gangubai; the raw, edgy, and rugged character might prove quite challenging for the young and bubbly actress.

Argumentatively, it can be said that she has portrayed an array of characters but then this is Don Gangubai we are talking about. 

Alia Bhatt as Gangubai in a still from the film 'Gangubai Kathiawadi'

In the teaser of the film, Alia can be seen saying 'kisi se darne ka nahi, na police seh, na MLA seh, na mantri seh, na bha**o seh, kisi ke baap seh nahi darne ka'. The dialogue delivery which was probably meant to be a lot more power-packed seemed a little unconvincing and failed to evoke any emotion.

The actress may have been cast for the role on the strength of the movies she has done so far, but would say Vidya Balan or even Divya Dutta as Gangubai have proven a better choice?

All of these are thoughts based on a one-minute teaser. Will the movie slated to release on July 30, 2021 surprise?



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