Gangubai Kathiawadi is a powerful saga that boasts of a career best performance by Alia Bhatt. The film has the potential to bring audiences back to the theatres.

Gangubai Kathiawadi Review {3.5/5} & Review Rating

GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI is the story of a woman’s journey from being a prostitute to being a messiah of the oppressed. The story begins in the early 50s. Ganga Harjivandas (Alia Bhatt) is a resident of Kathiawad. Her father is a barrister and she belongs to a well-to-do family. Ganga wants to be an actress and her boyfriend, Ramneek (Varun Kapoor), tells her that he’ll help her bag a role in a big Hindi film. She runs away with him to Bombay. In Bombay, he takes her to a brothel, run by Sheela (Seema Pahwa). This is when Ganga is told that Ramneek has sold her to Sheela for Rs. 1,000. At first, she protests but later gives in and joins the flesh trade. After she sleeps with her first client, something changes in her. She renames herself Gangu. In no time, she becomes rebellious, much against the will of Sheela. One day, early in the morning, Sheela gets a visitor, Shaukat Abbas Khan. He asks for Gangu. Sheela realizes that he doesn’t seem right. Yet, she allows Gangu to sleep with Shaukat to teach her a lesson. Also, she sends her henchmen away. Shaukat attacks Gangu and badly injures her. Gangu has to be hospitalized as Shaukat has disfigured her. Gangu learns that Shaukat belongs to the gang of Rahim Lala (Ajay Devgn), a famous don in Bombay and also quite a respectful figure of the city. Gangu meets him and tells him the truth. Rahim teaches Shaukat a lesson in public. The way Rahim Lala comes forward to help Gangu gives her the much-needed boost. Soon, Sheela passes away and Gangu takes over the business. She realizes that she needs to win the elections of the Kamathipura Association to turn the ride of the 4,000 sex workers residing in the red light area. However, doing so won’t be a cakewalk. Gangubai’s 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 from the chapter ‘The Matriarch Of Kamathipura’ in S Hussain Zaidi’s book, ‘Mafia Queens Of Mumbai’. The story is interesting and raises some important issues. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Utkarshini Vashishtha’s screenplay is entertaining and dramatic. Several films in the past have touched upon the lives of sex workers. But the writers ensure one doesn’t get a déjà vu of these movies. 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 one of the best in recent times. In several scenes, it’s the hard-hitting one liners that enhance the impact.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction is first-rate. He ensures the viewers get zapped into the world of Gangubai and Kamathipura. He has given some accomplished films in the past and hence, one doesn’t expect an ordinary product from him. In this regard, he doesn’t disappoint. He has helmed the story beautifully and sensitively and has also added the grandeur the way only he could have achieved. Gangubai’s pain comes out very well and everyone can empathize with her. At the same time, for most parts, the film is not disturbing and is quite mainstream in its treatment. However, the romantic portion between Gangubai and Afsaan (Shantanu Maheshwari) could have been shorter as this is when the film gets a bit slow. The second half is engaging but for the single-screen audience, it doesn’t offer mass entertainment. Moreover, Gangubai is called ‘Mafia Queen’ a couple of times but she isn’t depicted as a mafia in any way.

GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI’s beginning portions are a bit dark and disturbing. The film gets better once Ganga turns into Gangu. The entire track of Shaukat Abbas Khan and Razia Bai are highly engrossing. All scenes of Rahim Lala give a lot of weightage to the narrative. The romantic track, though a bit weak, has some cute moments. Post-interval, the film drops at places but picks up in the Azad Maidan speech scene and in the last 15 minutes.

Alia Bhatt: “I’m striving for AUTHENTICITY, not for perfection”| Gangubai Kathiawadi

Alia Bhatt delivers arguably the best performance of her career. Many had reservations that age-wise, she is not correct for the part. However, Gangubai is shown to be quite young and hence, Alia fits the bill perfectly. And she gets into the skin of her character like never before. Ajay Devgn has a 10-minute appearance and he’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 [2020] is a surprise of the film. Rahul Vohra (Prime Minister) is decent. The actors playing Madhu (the girl rescued by Gangubai), Shaukat Abbas Khan, Birju, the dentist, etc. are fine. Huma Qureshi is good in the ‘Shikayat’ song.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s music is a big letdown. He is known for soulful and hit songs but not a single song of GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI registers. ‘Dholida’ is okay just due to the picturization. The same goes for ‘Meri Jaan’ and ‘Jab Saiyaan’. ‘Shikayat’ and ‘Jhume Re Gori’ are forgettable. Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara’s background score is much better.

Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is topnotch and the Kamathipura set visuals are captured beautifully. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production design is pleasing to the eyes and yet very realistic. Sheetal Iqbal Sharma’s costumes are appealing, especially the white costumes worn by Alia. Sham Kaushal’s action is fine. VFX is great. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s editing could have been better at a few places.

On the whole, GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI is a powerful saga and is embellished with terrific moments and a career best performance by Alia Bhatt. At the box office, it has bright chances to score with the multiplex and female audiences.

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