Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s long-awaited film, Gangubai Kathiawadi, was finally released in cinemas today, and it seems Alia Bhatt has started a new, exciting phase for herself in Bollywood. Touted as a career-defining moment for the young actor, there was a lot riding on Gangubai Kathiawadi for her and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film has also been the source of controversy recently with petitions against the film, including against the portrayal of Gangubai in the film and against the use of Kathiawad in the title. However, Alia Bhatt has ensured that the only thing people will talk about after the film’s release is her performance.
When a young Gangubai is cheated out of her Bollywood dreams and sold to a brothel by a man she trusted, she takes it upon herself to change the fate she’s been handed. Ganga, now named Gangu, doesn’t cower down to the woman who bought her. Instead, she strives to reach the top of the food chain and change the lives of the women who are exploited every day. From a young girl, exploited and abused, Gangubai becomes the ruler of her arena.
Based on the chapter titled, The Matriarch Of Kamathipura, in Mafia Queens of Mumbai, a book by Hussain Zaidi, Gangubai Kathiawadi stars Vijay Raaz, Seema Pahwa, Ajay Devgn, and Jim Sarbh in supporting roles.
While the protagonist’s performance is incredible, the film falls short in other ways. What should have been a complex, riveting story is reduced to a simplistic portrayal of a highly complicated character. Her struggles are minimised, her enemies are deflated, and her success is shown as occurring almost overnight. There are several crucial aspects of Gangubai’s life that are left untouched in Bhansali’s film.
Some of the supporting actors, who should have played a much bigger role, are reduced to mere caricatures. This includes Vijay Raaz whose Razia Bai could have been a formidable opponent to Alia Bhatt’s Gangu but is reduced to a stereotype that is pretty much brushed aside. Seema Pahwa’s Sheela Masi is also far too one dimensional for a story of this depth.
One had hopes of a small yet power-packed performance from Ajay Devgn, especially after the trailer. And every appearance of Raheem Lala (Ajay Devgn) in Gangubai Kathiawadi is meant to be impactful. Dramatic music, over the top visuals, and heavy dialogues accompany him in every scene. However, Devgn’s performance is largely forgettable. Apart from his mediocre acting, this is also because Alia Bhatt outshines him in every frame they share.
Gangubai Kathiawadi seems to have been made only for Alia Bhatt. But even her powerful performance is not enough to bring the film together in the simplistic ending that we are offered. It feels like a letdown because the film starts really strong. Yes, it has several strong moments in the second half as well, but the lack of thought in developing any character besides Gangubai is evident. Don’t dismiss the film though, it is still worth a watch.
Gangubai Kathiawadi is long but it won’t bore you. Alia Bhatt makes sure of that.
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