Bollywood Movie Reviews

Gangubai Kathiawadi Review: A rich period piece powered by a stellar act from Alia Bhatt

Gangubai Kathiawadi, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, stars Alia Bhatt in the role of a brothel madam who fights for the rights of all prostitutes in the red-light district of Kamathipura, Mumbai.

Mohnish Singh | Updated On: Feb 25, 2022 12:02 PM IST

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Gangubai Kathiawadi Review: A rich period piece powered by a stellar act from Alia Bhatt

Gangubai Kathiawadi Movie Review Rating: 4/5


Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films come with larger-than-life elements. No matter which story he is telling and from which era, it has to be visually stunning from the word go. After delivering three back-to-back blockbusters with Deepika Padukone, Bhansali joins forces with Alia Bhatt for his latest directorial Gangubai Kathiawadi, based on Hussain Zaidi’s novel Mafia Queens of Mumbai. After suffering a series of setbacks due to the coronavirus pandemic, the big-ticket period drama film finally finds its way into cinemas today, on 25 February. In case you are planning to watch the film, here’s what our reviewer has to say about Gangubai Kathiawadi.

STORY: Gangubai Kathiawadi narrates the story of a young, gullible Ganga (Alia Bhatt), whose cunning boyfriend (Varun Kapoor) takes advantage of her dream of becoming a heroine in Hindi films and tricks her into coming along with him to Mumbai. All her dreams are shattered in a jiffy when she comes to know that her boyfriend has sold her to a brothel madam (Seema Pahwa) for a meagre amount. Soon, Ganga surrenders to her fate and relinquishes her birth name to become Gangubai. She forms an alliance with gangster Rahim Lala (Ajay Devgn) and there begins her journey from being a helpless sex-worker to becoming the most powerful woman to ever live in the red-light district of Kamathipura in Mumbai.

HIGHS: Gangubai Kathiawadi stars Alia Bhatt in the titular role, and she does complete justice to her character. The actress effortlessly transforms herself from a naïve girl from Kaithawad, to the hapless victim of circumstances who is thrown into the flesh trade and finally the most influential woman, the mafia queen, in Kamathipura with underworld connections. Bhatt shines in every avatar and delivers a performance that is going to be remembered for a long time. The film also has brilliant actors like Seema Pahwa and Vijay Raaz who manage to leave a lasting impression. Actor Shantanu Maheshwari, who makes his silver screen debut with the film, will charm his way into your hearts with his endearing performance.

The film is filled with a number of scenes which stand out, especially the one where Gangubai goes to meet her ace rival, trans madam Raziabai, played impeccably by Vijay Raaz, after foiling her plans to organise a massive rally to show her power ahead of the presidency elections in the red-light area. Another impactful scene is the one where she lands unannounced in the office of a school principal to enroll children of sex-workers. And you just cannot forget her speech at a huge rally organised for the upliftment of sex-workers! Additionally, the film has a slew of witty one-liners which will make you whistle every now and then.

As mentioned earlier, Bhansali is known for a certain kind of cinema, a cinema that is beautiful in every frame. You can find beauty even in the tragedy that his characters go through. Gangubai Kathiawadi is no different. The filmmaker has worked really hard to make each and every shot picture perfect.

LOWS: Gangubai Kathiawadi reminds you of all the films that Bhansali has helmed in recent years. The same grandiose and almost the same colour palette. Every frame screams it is an SLB creation. Bhansali is one of the most celebrated filmmakers in Indian cinema, and we definitely want to see him explore more different stories in the future that are set in not-so-similar looking worlds. Also, it would have been really great if the film had focused more on Gangubai’s struggle for the rights of her fellow sex-workers. That’s missing somewhere.

FINAL VERDICT: There is nothing that should stop you from watching Gangubai Kathiawadi. Initially, you may find Alia Bhatt too young to play the character of a brothel madam, but she will surprise you with the intensity with which she portrays her part to perfection. The film has got many things to keep you engrossed: visual splendour, skilful storytelling, great music, and memorable performances. Gangubai Kathiawadi is definitely worth going to see. I am going with 4 stars.

Watch Gangubai Kathiawadi trailer:

Movie Credits:

Banner: Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions, Pen Studios

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shantanu Maheshwari, Vijay Raaz, Seema Pahwa, etc.

Runtime: 154 Minutes

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