Fierce, powerful and emotional are some of emotions that will fill your heart while watching Gangubai Kathiawadi. The film chronicles the life and struggles of women in the red-light areas through Gangubai’s story, who rises as a phoenix and transforms the lives and rights of prostitutes in Kamathipura.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn, Vijay Razz and Shantanu Maheshwari
Ever wondered how women land up in brothels and why do they continue to live like that, despite the stigma attached to their profession? Several documentaries have explored this theme in the past. However, it has never been presented in its purest form in the commercial cinema, considering the sensitivity of the subject. However, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done full justice in Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Based on ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’, a book written by S Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges, the film explores the story of women who are brought to brothels on pretext of fake promises.It sheds light on the dark lives of women living in the red-light areas through the life of Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has captured the nitty-gritties of their lifestyle and the conditions in which they are kept with utmost sincerity. Be it in the form of the dark and crampy environment in which they live, the atrocities that prostitutes face and the mafias behind the business, it presents a true picture in the most unfiltered form. Unlike his previous films that throw us in the world of imagination, the scenes depicted in this film are real and can make you feel severely uncomfortable to watch.
The set designs are also a work of perfection. The film is set in hustling by-lanes of Kamathipura, a prominent red-light area of Mumbai. Both screenplay and editing is spot on and some scenes bring out the traumatic and aggressive conditions that young girls are forced to live in.
The film begins with the Ganga (played by Alia Bhatt) narrating her story to a 14-year-old girl who has been forced into prostitution by her fiance. Ganga shares how she gets conned by her lover ‘Ramneek’ (played by Varun Kapoor), who compels her to travel from Gujarat to Bombay on pretext of giving her a big break as an actress. But, as she reaches Bombay, she discovers that she is sold to a brothel, where she gets tortured by the brothel’s owner (played by Seema Pahwa). After being compelled to sleep around with men, she accepts brothel as her new her home and changes her name to ‘Gangubai’.
As she changes her name to Gangubai, she also becomes rebellious and a local representative of hundreds of women. She then rises as a phoenix, thanks to the support she receives from the fellow prostitutes who live at the brothel and eventually builds political and underworld connections outside. She not only rules the brothel and becomes the President of the entire red-light area of Kamathipura but also recognises herself as the mafia of Bombay, thanks to the support from Rahim Lala (played by Ajay Devgn).
Ajay has, as usual, acted brilliantly in his supporting role. In his short and special appearance, the actor has delivered a power-packed performance. He has left a striking impression with his acting skills and as a saviour of Gangubai.
The film also introduces Shantanu Maheshwari as Gangubai’s love interest. He has delivered a good performance, adding an element of fun and romance. Besides this, the film stars Vijay Raaz and Jim Sarbh. Though Jim has also done justice to his role of a journalist, who helps Gangubai to highlight prostitutes’ challenges, Vijay’s character as a trans woman 'Razia Bai' has not been utilised properly. In fact, Vijay’s role ends abruptly. The film's running time of two hours and forty minutes also seems a bit stretched.
However, the flaws are too less to count. Do watch Gangubai Kathiawadi in theatres for Alia’s exceptional performance and powerful dialogues that have the power to melt your heart. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration if we tell you that the actress has delivered her career best performance in this film. She has proved that there is more to her than acting in rom-coms.
Gangubai Kathiawadi releases on 25 February.