gangubai kathiawadi
Movie Review, REVIEWS

Gangubai Kathiawadi: Alia Bhatt slams the haters!

Rating: 3/5

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Seema Pahwa, Vijay Raaz, Shantanu Maheswari, Indira Tiwari

Watch on: Netflix

Ganga, a 16-year-old girl with dreams to make it big in Hindi cinema gets trapped in the streets of Kamathipura, a city in Mumbai where nights are endless and lights never go off. She is sold off to Sheela Maasi, the madam of a brothel in Kamathipura for just Rs.1000 by her paramour. Reluctantly Ganga agrees to become a prostitute. But rather than succumbing to the circumstance, she rises above it and rechristens herself as Gangu and pledges to rule Kamathipura in the next five years.

Gangubai Kathiawadi magnificently captures the transition of Ganga to Gangu and then Gangubai, the mafia don who advocates for sex workers’ rights. She came to Bombay dreaming of becoming a movie star, but fate ends up making her a larger-than-life persona who ruled the streets of Kamathipura. Gangubai is a character that requires a certain level of charisma, attitude, and strength. Alia Bhatt brings all of these to the table. She absorbs the soul of the character and delivers a performance that moves us and stays with us even after the film is over.

In a scene where Ganga stands in front of the brothel to lure men, the helplessness on her face is palpable. Another girl comes and helps fix her position to look more appealing. The scene hits so hard and is one of the many that leave us with a lasting impression and we feel like swallowing a lump of rock down our throat.

More than confining as a biographical drama, Gangubai Kathiawadi also explores the plight of prostitutes in Kamathipura through the eyes of the titular character. The isolation, rejection, and lack of respect and dignity are a few things that the film focuses on.

Now a few things about Alia Bhatt:

Her performance as Gangubai is a slap on the face of the industry that reserves grand entries and larger-than-life characters for men and confines women to roles that never surpass the grandeur of a male lead. The power she brings to the character is visible in her eyes. The scene where she sits down with the children of the prostitutes and asks Faizi (Jim Sarbh) to click the photo sends a strong and powerful statement. Her child-like face does not come in the way of projecting the life of a badass mafia queen. She transitions well throughout the film and carries herself elegantly and age-appropriately as Gangubai. There are moments where her performance falters but the overall extravagance she brings on-screen compensates for these mild flaws. As Gangubai, Alia proves to us that she is not just a star but also an irreplaceable star.

Apart from some impactful scenes, clap-worthy dialogues and visually stunning camera work keeps us hooked throughout the film. There are moments when we feel the film is a little stretched but these goosebump segments make up for the lost time.

Shantanu Maheshwari as Afsaan, Gangubai’s lover, excels in his debut film. He brings to screen the innocence and charm required for the character. It was good to see Seema Pahwa catch a break from the usual Bollywood-mom roles and play a character with a slight negative shade. Vijay Raaz as Raziabai, Gangubai’s evil opponent, is too good to take our eyes off. He is probably the only actor who stands as tall as Alia in scenes with her. He gives competition to the power that Alia radiates as Gangubai.

The music of Gangubai Kathiawadi is not memorable except for the “Dholida” song. The background score however matches up to the intensity of the storyline.

Image Courtesy: YouTube

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