Gangubai Kathiawadi Movie Review: Valiant Tale of An Unorthodox Queen

While studying history, I have seen two types of queens. Those who live in huge mansions and don’t know a thing about their people and those who devote themselves completely to the welfare of the general public.

Ganga Harjeevandas (Kathiawadi), on whose life Gangubai Kathiawadi is largely based, doesn’t fall in either of the two categories.

She is just a normal human being, brazenly eaten by misfortune and the prejudices of society. Yet, Ganga manages to build a kingdom of her own from scratch.

Before I write any further, let me just give you a quick look at how the film performs on the big screen, in my opinion.

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Gangubai Kathiawadi Review Summary

The life of Ganga might not be big or severely controversial for a movie, but it sure was complicated.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the master of period dramas, shells his entire craft to present a moving biographical spectacle and Alia’s outstanding act does the rest.

Though the narrative is a bit slow, I recommend watching it on the silver screen for the ‘unorthodox’ queen of Kamathipura, Gangubai Kathiawadi.

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Gangubai Kathiawadi Synopsis

Based on the chapter Matriarch of Kamathipura, from S Hussain Zaidi’s book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Gangubai Kathiawadi is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

It stars Alia Bhatt in the titular role, complemented ably by Seema Pahwa, Ajay Devgan, and Vijay Raaz.

The story revolves around Ganga Harjeevandas, who falls in love with a guy. Her lover sells Ganga to a brothel on the pretext of fulfilling her dream of acting in movies.

It shows Ganga’s struggle to live from thereon and her journey to becoming Gangubai Kathiawadi.

What works for Gangubai Kathiawadi?

After months, stepping into a Cinema Hall brought a plethora of nostalgia and good things about Gangubai Kathiawadi, further facilitated the experience. Here’s what works for the Bhansali directorial.

Performances

From the cameos of Ajay Devgan, Vijay Raaz, Jim Sarbh, Shantanu Maheshwari, and the little girls to the full-fledged roles of Seema Pahwa and other female actresses at the Brothel, all work in tandem.

Everything is professionally neat and clean. Since the film is helmed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, there was not a pinch of doubt about casting.

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Many people have criticised the move of films not having real transgender people and choosing to cast a male instead.

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Though the debate is not for me to conclude, Vijay Raaz has done an excellent job doing what was assigned to him.

Then there is Alia Bhatt, who takes the screen by storm. Obviously, she had to be perfect because she was playing a biographical role. People knew the film rests on her shoulders, and if she doesn’t shine, the movie will fall flat. 

There were heavy criticism and doubts surrounding whether she was the right choice or for such a dense role. Sometimes, disapprovals also turned into hatred with Kangana Ranaut being the tiller.

But man, Alia Bhatt tears into the likes of Kangana Ranaut and burns them to ashes through her brilliant performance. She is all that the film ever needed.

Her portrayal needs no verification. Not from me or from anyone else. But the growth she has shown since the release of Student of The Year is almost impossible to digest. Alia’s acting in Gangubai Kathiawadi must be lauded at any cost.

She has aced the intricacies perfectly, from voice modulation to posture adjustments. Alia has gone into the character’s skin and lived it beautifully.

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Story

Mostly, movies drawn from real-life personalities and books are good on content, and Gangubai Kathiawadi is on the same page too.

It is charmingly replicated on the screen with several creative liberties that do not look ingenuine.

More than the story, I feel we need to acknowledge and accept the message the movie gives. The profession of sex workers or prostitutes is second to none.

To have done so much in such inferior conditions, Ganga Harjeevandas must be posthumously respected by society.

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Dialogues

Here’s another thing that you will like about the film. Most of the dialogues have been written by Sanjay Leela Bhansali himself, and they have come out really well.

The Grandeur

I feel the need to talk about this because we must appreciate good cinema. Despite the character not being a male, massive in aura, or a famous personality, the director succeeds in grandly presenting her.

Whenever Alia is on screen, you feel she leads the way without trying much. That happens because of how her character is written, performed, and then complemented by the background score.

Emotions

Gangubai Kathiawadi is immaculate when it comes to emotions. You feel for the characters and want to enjoy their camaraderie.

I loved one particular scene when one of the ladies in Gangu’s Brothel dies, and the rest of them talk to her dead body, which is made to sit on a swing. That was amazing and soothing for the eyes.

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What doesn’t work for Gangubai Kathiawadi?

Music is Below Par

When a big-budget film comes out, you want the music to be stunning, which I felt was missing from Gangubai Kathiawadi. Except for the Qawwali starring Huma Qureshi, I remained largely unimpressed by the movie’s music.

Slow Narrative

No surprises here, and it is not entirely a negative thing. Biographies depict life stories and are hence, usually slow on narration.

However, the good thing is Gangubai Kathiawadi doesn’t drown itself in a patchy screenplay. The narrative works well, but my only concern is that the masses might not feel inclined.

Should you watch Gangubai Kathiawadi?

Yes, indeed! Go for it unless you are highly averse to a slow narration.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. On which platform will Gangubai Kathiawadi release?

Gangubai Kathiawadi will release on Netflix after 3-4 months.

2. Who was Gangubai Kathiawadi in real life?

She was just like another girl until her husband/lover sold her to a brothel owner in Kamathipura, one of Mumbai’s most famous red-light districts. The incident turns her life upside down, and she was forced to work as a sex worker. 

Throughout her life, she stood firm for the rights of sex workers. Gangubai never pushed a girl into prostitution against her wishes. 

3. Where is Kamathipura situated?

Kamathipura is a district in Mumbai. It is popular for the flesh trade.

4. Did Gangubai Kathiawadi Meet Jawahar Lal Nehru in Real Life?

According to the book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, yes, Gangubai Kathiawadi did meet Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India.

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