Gangubai Kathiawadi Rating 3.5/5 & Rating
GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI is the story of a woman’s journey from prostitute to messiah of the oppressed. The story begins in the early 1950s. Ganga Harjivandas (Alia Bhatt) is a resident of Kathiawad. Her father is a lawyer and she comes from a wealthy family. Ganga wants to be an actress and her boyfriend Ramneek (Varun Kapoor) tells her that he will help her get a part in a big Hindi film. She flees with him to Bombay. In Bombay he takes her to a brothel run by Sheela (Seema Pahwa). At that moment, Ganga learns that Ramneek sold her to Sheela for Rs. 1,000 At first she protests, but later relents and joins the meat trade. After sleeping with her first client, something changes inside her. She renames herself Gangu. In no time she becomes rebellious, much against Sheela’s wishes. One day, early in the morning, Sheela has a visit from Shaukat Abbas Khan. He asks about Gangu. Sheela realizes he doesn’t seem right. Still, she allows Gangu to sleep with Shaukat to teach her a lesson. She also sends her henchmen away. Shaukat attacks Gangu, severely injuring her. Gangu has to be hospitalized because Shaukat disfigured her. Gangu learns that Shaukat belongs to Rahim Lala’s gang (Ajay Devgn), a famous Don in Bombay and also quite a respected figure of the city. Gangu meets him and tells him the truth. Rahim publicly teaches Shaukat a lesson. The way Rahim Lala steps forward to help Gangu gives her a much-needed boost. Soon Sheela dies and Gangu takes over the business. She realizes she must win the Kamathipura Association elections to film the ride of the 4,000 sex workers who live in the red light district. However, this will not be a cakewalk. Gangubais Opponent is none other than the very powerful Razia Bai (Vijay Raaz). What happens next forms the rest of the film.
GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI is inspired by the chapter “The Matriarch of Kamathipura” in S. Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mafia Queens Of Mumbai”. The story is interesting and raises some important questions. The screenplay by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Utkarshini Vashishtha is entertaining and dramatic. Several films have touched on the lives of sex workers in the past. But the writers make sure you don’t get déjà vu with these films. The character of Gangubai is very well fleshed out and the same goes for other supporting characters. Prakash Kapadia and Utkarshini Vashishtha’s dialogues are powerful and among the best in recent memory. In several scenes, it’s the hard-hitting one-liners that add to the impact.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction is top-notch. He ensures that viewers are transported into the world of Gangubai and Kamathipura. He has done some good films in the past and so you don’t expect an ordinary product from him. In this respect he does not disappoint. He beautifully and sensitively directed the story while also adding the greatness that only he could have achieved. Gangubai’s pain comes out very well and everyone can sympathize with her. At the same time, the film is mostly unobtrusive and fairly mainstream in its treatment. However, the romantic part between Gangubai and Afsaan (Shantanu Maheshwari) could have been shorter since the movie slows down a bit here. The second half is captivating but fails to deliver mass entertainment for the single-screen audience. Also, Gangubai is called “Mafia Queen” a few times, but she is not portrayed as a mafia in any way.
The opening parts of GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI are a bit dark and disturbing. The movie gets better once Ganga transforms into Gangu. The entire track by Shaukat Abbas Khan and Razia Bai is very captivating. All of Rahim Lala’s scenes add a lot of weight to the narrative. The romantic track is a bit weak but has some sweet moments. After the break, the film breaks off at a few points, but picks up again in Azad Maidan’s speech scene and in the last 15 minutes.
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Alia Bhatt delivers arguably the best performance of her career. Many had reservations about her age, she was not up to the role. However, Gangubai turns out to be quite young and hence Alia fits the bill perfectly. And she penetrates her character’s skin like never before. Ajay Devgn does a 10 minute act and it’s phenomenal. His casting is also spot on. Seema Pahwa is memorable. Vijay Raaz is too good in a small role. Shantanu Maheshwari is adorable and will be loved. Varun Kapoor is decent. Jim Sarbh (journalist Amin Faizi) is excellent. Indira Tiwari (Kamli), last seen in SERIOUS MEN  is a surprise of the film. Rahul Vohra (Prime Minister) is decent. The actors playing Madhu (the girl rescued from Gangubai), Shaukat Abbas Khan, Birju, the dentist, etc. are fine. Huma Qureshi is good at ‘shikayat’ Song.
The music of Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a big disappointment. He’s known for soulful and hit-potential songs, but not a single song by GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI registers. ‘Dholida’ is only ok because of the illustration. The same applies ‘Meri Jan’ and ‘Jab Saiyan’. ‘shikayat’ and ‘Jhume Re Gori’ are forgetful. Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara’s background score is much better.
Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is top notch and the imagery of the Kamathipura set is beautifully captured. The production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray is easy on the eyes yet very realistic. Sheetal Iqbal Sharma’s costumes are appealing, especially the white suits worn by Alia. Sham Kaushal’s action is fine. VFX is great. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s editing could have been better in a few places.
Overall, GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI is a powerful saga embellished with grandiose moments and a career-best performance from Alia Bhatt. At the box office, he has a good chance of scoring with multiplex and women audiences.