Gangubai Kathiawadi

The movie is Alia Bhatt. I am aware of the actor’s prowess. The role of Gangubai Kathiawadi didn’t seem to be a fit for the petite frame, or the age, Alia possesses. Yet, I went in to see the movie because of her. And as usual, the lady doesn’t disappoint.

Apart from the tragic – and horrific – circumstances of how her character falls into prostitution, the entire movie depicts (sometimes with shades of heroic grandeur) the stoicism of Gangubai Kathiawadi. The story is truly dark and morbid – something the opus of a Bhansali production probably needed. His typical, over the top direction depicting royalty even when the plot has no traces of royalty seems toned down because of its very subject. It’s a good pairing this: Bhatt and Bhansali. They make for good film.

The writing is compact and has great monologues. I particularly like the one that talks of the different shades of white. The metaphors in it are stark and vivid. Like the tones of this movie, muted greys and blues. The whites stand out like beacons in the dark. The writers, Prakash Kapadia and Utkarshini Vasishtha, hand in glove with Sudeep Chatterjee have created brilliance again.

It’s a woman-centric film. The supporting cast does a worthy job – Seema Pahwa deserves an honourable mention – but the film belongs to Alia. Though I shall mention that without the cameo of Ajay Devgan, the quintessential, hindi-hero character, Gangubai wouldn’t have scaled the heights her character reached. But given the era and of course, filmdom being misogynistic, a man had to ultimately be the saviour. Although it’s important to note two things. One, Karim Lala did help Gangubai in the way depicted in the film. Two, all the men in the movie have their own price tags. A good innuendo.

I will note, being from the LGBT community myself, that depicting a Hijra as the main antagonist could cause more prejudice against the community. A community that already faces enough ignorance, violence and hatred. The character could have just as easily been another female. And if indeed depicting the antagonist as trans was necessary, why Vijay Raaz? Why wasn’t a trans person considered and cast? These questions shall have their excuses as answers. Like one that said that Vijay Raaz is a phenomenal actor. Agreed. So why not cast him as Gangubai? (Just following the line of argument.)

Apart from this, the movie resonated with me. After Khamoshi, I think Bhansali has done something truly worthy. And it is this film. But I end how I began: most of the credit should definitely go to the phenomenally gifted Alia Bhatt.

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