Express press service
There’s something about Alia Bhatt and Sanjay Leela Bhansali that every time the powerhouses of talent teamed up for a movie, it wasn’t without a hiccup. In 2019, when Bhatt was enlisted by Bhansali to partner Salman Khan for ‘Inshallah’, the film met an untimely demise. It was shelved due to creative differences between the filmmaker and Khan. It was heartbreaking for the young star and since then she has been waiting to be part of the filmmaker’s next offer. Luckily, Gangubai Kathiawadi was announced soon after, but that wasn’t going to be an easy ride either.
The film went to the floors, only to be intermittently cut short due to the pandemic outbreak. But Bhatt stood by his director despite multiple interruptions and filming delays. “Well, you have to have a bit of drama in life and then sometimes there’s sunshine. There is no straight path we have in life. There are good days and bad days, ups and downs,” says the 28-year-old actor.
Gangubai Kathiawadi, released this Friday, is Bhatt’s “life work”. Even though the film deals with the subject of prostitution, the treatment is neither dark nor sober. Instead, it’s a good mix of being dramatic and witty. “It’s the real story of Gangubai and so there’s drama, wit, emotion, love, humor, just about everything. Besides the intensity, there’s also has a fun element. In the promo, Gangubai comes out of the car looking so stylish. After all, it’s his personality,” Bhatt says.
What sets Gangubai Kathiawadi apart is that there is no obscenity in the film. Contrary to what is shown when dealing with such subjects, there is little verbal or visual disturbance in Bhansali’s film. “We need to reach a wider audience. Yes, I would like to see a movie that has intensity and drama, but not those disturbing shots that make me feel uncomfortable. As is the case with the public, there is so much stress at home. You can’t make them come to the cinema and then stress them more with what’s happening on the big screen,” she says and quickly adds, “Agreed that Gangubai is a prostitute, she was sold to a brothel. However, it’s not like his basic personality is dark. The girl has her own style. She is that ray of sunshine in the dark world of prostitution.
Bhatt, daughter of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actor Soni Razdan, made her acting debut as a child artist in the 1999 thriller Sangharsh and shot to fame with the teen drama Student of the Year (2012) by Karan Johar. His sole focus currently is on Gangubai who in a decade ruled the Kamathipura estate just like Bhatt did in the Hindi film industry. Ten years and a dozen films later, Bhatt has learned the art of separating his personal and professional life. And the only man she would talk about is her co-star Ajay Devgn. “Ajay has a very powerful role in the film. He is one of the most important people in Gangubai’s life. It’s very exciting to see how Ajay has brought so much to the screen even with limited screen time.
Now that the movie is out, the jinx, if any, is broken around Bhatt and Bhansali working together. “Yes indeed. The wait has been so long and I’m glad the movie is here for everyone to see. We waited because we wanted the capacity of the theater to increase. I just hope the movie “I’m fine. For everyone’s sake, I’m crossing my fingers that the film does well,” Bhatt smiles with hope in his eyes. We’ll see if that hope translates into numbers in the days to come.
- Gangubai Harjivandas, popularly known as Gangubai Kathiawadi, was a mafia queen and “madam” of a brothel in Kamathipura, Mumbai in the 1960s.
- The film is loosely based on Gangubai whose life was documented in Mafia Queens of Mumbai written by Hussain Zaidi.
- The Hindi film was also dubbed into Telugu.
- It had its world premiere at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival in the Special Gala section of the Berlinale earlier this month.