Gangubai Kathiawadi is a story that would have probably never reached mainstream cinema for its tainted and dark history. The movie fits within the taste & sensibilities of Arthouse Cinema. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Alia Bhatt helm this tale of angst, pain, loneliness & power that sheds light on the darkness of Mumbai’s Red light district with poise, grandeur & pure emotion.
Adapted from a chapter of Hussain S Zaidis’ novel Mafia Queens Of Mumbai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali was presented with a framework to build an interpretation of Gangubai Kathiawadi’s life with cinematic liberties. The narrative focuses on her life as a teenager to her mid-thirties. Bhansali did not go beyond the writing of Hussain S Zaidi’s work as no other credible material exists.
Synonymous for his cinematic mastery, larger than life sets and regal beauty, Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes us to Bombay’s red-light district in the 1950s-1960s made in muted tones of Sepia, olives hues & white with hints of red in moments. Staying true to his style of storytelling, Bhansali takes his time to illustrate her journey from being sold for Rs 1000 to fighting for the rights of women and children in her community. Gangubai Kathiawadi is his most feminist film to date. He visually illustrates the shades of consent even in spaces of brutality and pain.
Alia Bhatt delivers her career-best performance in and as Gangubai Kathiawadi. She is poetry in motion and conveyed an array of emotions with and without the use of dialogues, in every nuance she loses herself to her character and delivers her lines with conviction. It is in the scenes where she conveys Gangubai’s pain and anguish that Alia shines the brightest. We hope there be many more collaborations between Alia Bhatt and Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Manifesting).
Vijay Raaz yet again proves his acting prowess without falling into the trap of stereotyping like we are used to seeing in films. His performance and when he face-offs with Alia, it’s a treat to watch. Debutant Shantanu Maheshwari is wonderful in his role. Ajay Devgn plays the mafia Karim Lala with great bravado adding hints of Bollywood flair to the narrative. Usually seen in comedic roles, Seema Pahwa deserves more textured cinema. Jim Sarbh delivers another great performance. Huma Qureshi in her special appearance adds sparkle to the narrative.
In Sanjay Leela Bhansalis’ world, the emotions of pain, loneliness and love are layered in a variety of shades. Dialogues by Prakash Kapadia pays homage to the Golden era of cinema with its poetic sensibilities. Sudeep Chatterjee, Director of Photography creates each frame that feels like a painting coming to life. The pace of this narrative allows audiences to create an emotional connection with its characters.
The Music of Gangubai Kathiawadi is entirely different from the last three albums Bhansali composed. Choreography is magical, every beat has meaning, even a rose falling. Kruti Mahesh proves that she is made for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s cinema.
There is so much left to be discovered, archived and shared about Gangubai Kathiawadi. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, in his interpretation crafts another cinematic masterpiece with a career-defining performance from Alia Bhatt surrounded by a wonderful cast of actors, great writing and surreal visuals embellished with emotion.