A film made for the big screen, Gangubai Kathiawadi will bring audiences back to the cinema


Gangubai Kathiawadi

Producers: Jayantilal Gada and Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Story: S.Hussain Zaidi
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn, Seema Pahwa, Shantanu Maheshwari, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz, Indira Tiwari

“Gangu heroine ban ne aai thi. Kambakht puri cinema he ban gayi”

The film closes on this line and the audience claps as the credits roll on the screen. Gangubai Kathiawadi is fine Indian “cinema”. To talk about what it offers would be selling it short. Because there is nothing it doesn’t. 

A film made for the big screen, Gangubai Kathiawadi will bring audiences back to the cinema. Not before the Covid pandemic, have cinemas been out of operation for such a long period. But this period drama is the reason to go back to the silver screen and observe Alia Bhatt aka Gangubai’s eyes and the tear that trickles down her cheek. It is the reason to collectively hoot and cheer when there are song and dance sequences, strong dialogues, stronger screenplay and the strongest performances of the various actors’ careers. Alia Bhatt is the wherewithal of the film and she steals the show, the scenes, the looks, and audiences’ hearts.

But the magician is back. Sanjay Leela Bhansali works with a story that is not told in history but found in the parlance of the mafia queens of Mumbai and he animates it through the instruments that are his actors. To watch Ajay Devgn in a Bhansali film after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, to watch Jim Sarbh after Padmaavat, to watch Seema Pahwa for the first time in a Bhansali film, to watch Vijay Raaz, Shantanu Maheshwari, is refreshing and endearing. And he has waved his wand on Alia Bhatt. She delivers such a mature performance at her age that she carries the entire film on her shoulders. It is not a surprise that Alia is a good actor, she is the finest of this generation, but she still surprises with her nuances and her craft.

It’s however the beats of the film and how it ascends and comes together that is marvellous. Every conflict and every harmony between the characters of the film has a character of its own. Then be it the camaraderie between Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn, the contradiction between Alia and Seema Pahwa, the almost mime of a romance between Alia and Shantanu, the bond between her and the other girls, the equation between Alia and Indira Tiwari, they all are so distinct from each other and the actors play off each other so well, one can only imagine what it must have been like on set.

The genius of Bhansali is that he is a creative mind. He directs, creates music, designs the choreography, and pieces it all together seamlessly. The songs, they seem to get better with every Bhansali film, not just in melody but even in visuals.

The content and subject of the film is vast. It is about sex workers, it is about politics, and politicians, it is about human relationships, it is about legal rights, it is about education, it is about love, lust, and the in between. 

The film is titled Gangubai Kathiawadi but as Gangu herself says, it’s not just about her, it is about all “vaishyas”, everyone who does “dhanda”, and their rights, because they don’t just reside here, they date back to the oldest profession, and they’re found even in “swarg”. It is about everyone and everything.

There is a lot to say and if what I’ve said is not enough, I would urge you to go watch Gangubai Kathiawadi because I’m sure you’ll agree.

- Dhruvi Shah Mota



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