Just a day before its release, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie, 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' escaped a stay from Supreme Court. In the same week, the movie escaped several PILs when the Bombay High Court dismissed three petitions seeking deletion of the words ‘Kamathipura’, ‘Kathiawadi’, and ‘China’ from the movie.
Describing these PILs as frivolous, Senior lawyer and Human Rights activist Abha Singh told Outlook that an unhealthy practice has started where PR agencies of movies suggest getting such cases filed to create a hype and buzz around the movie and called it a strategized publicity ploy. Citing previous incidents and court observations, she said, “No court gives a stay 2 days before the release of the movie.”
As the movie releases today, here’s taking a look at what landed the movie in legal trouble.
Adopted son’s petition
On Thursday, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari refused to entertain the plea by Babuji Rawji Shah, who claims to be the adopted son of Gangubai and demanded a stay on the movie’s release.
The appeal was filed against the order of the Bombay High Court that stayed the summons issued by a Mumbai court in a criminal defamation complaint against the producers of Gangubai Kathiawadi, actress Alia Bhatt, and the authors of the book The Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Hussain Zaidi, and Jane Borges.
The Bombay High Court while hearing the defamation case by Shah had observed that according to the principle of Tort, an action for defamation dies with the person.
According to a report by Bar and Bench, appearing for filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram argued, “We don't consider it shameworthy if a woman rises above from this background and does something for the society, it is not to be ashamed of."
He further refuted defamation claims, saying that the alleged adopted son of Gangubai was unaware of the book 'Mafia Queens' which was published 11 years ago, and "now when the film is coming out he becomes aware of it."
When asked to prove his adoption, Shah couldn't give any legal proof. The apex court eventually dismissed the plea.
Pleas to drop ‘Kamatipura’, ‘Kathiawadi’ and ‘Prostitution’ from the movie:
Congress Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Amin Patel, objected to the names “Kamathipura” and “Kathiawadi” being used in the film in a manner that may lead to lowering the dignity of the women in the area.
Another plea by Shraddha Surve, a resident of Kamathipura, said, that the reputation of the area has been impacted negatively as the movie makes derogatory allegations by portraying the entire area as a red-light hub, this violates the fundamental rights of women living with dignity in Kamatipura.
While explaining the intricacies of the case, Abha Singh told Outlook that the defamation section 499 talks about the reputation of an “individual” and not an area. So, neither the case of defaming the area of Kamatipura stands any legal ground nor does the case by the alleged adopted son.
Hiten Mehta, in his petition, sought deletion of the word ‘China’ used by actress Alia Bhatt in a scene of the trailer for a dentist from the North East.
Senior counsel Ravi Kadam, appearing for Bhansali, told the court that the dentist featured in the scene where the word ‘China’ is used is actually shown as a Chinese dentist. “The movie is set in the 1950s and at that time this area had several dentists from China,” he told the court.
The Bombay High Court refused to grant any relief and dismissed all three petitions filed seeking deletion of the words ‘Kamathipura’, ‘Kathiawadi’ and ‘China’ from the movie.
Interestingly, none of the 3 petitions sought a stay on the release of the movie but pleaded that certain “objectionable” words be deleted or replaced.
The observation by the court while dismissing the plea further raises concern on the intent behind filing the petition.
The court observed, that proper procedure was not followed as the petitioners had not resorted to pursuing alternative remedies before approaching the Court. An objection was raised to the fact that why the certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) granted to the movie was not challenged.
On why petitions against the movie couldn’t stand ground, Abha Singh explains that there is no such restriction on making a movie or writing a book on a Red Light area. “Such a ban, in fact, would be in violation of freedom of speech and expression and is detrimental to creative instincts in a society.
The censor board has cleared it, the book has been there for 11 years and the movie has been announced for such a long time and we see cases filed days before its release. If the case was genuine, the adopted son should have brought the injunction order when the movie was announced. Such cases overshadow genuine cases and take up the precious time of the court.”
She added many movies have been made on Red light areas before like the Tabu starrer ‘Chandani bar’.
Madhur Bhandarkar's critically acclaimed film ‘Chandni Bar’ that got its lead actress Tabu who played a prostitute, several awards was based on Dance Bars in Mumbai.
The movie, GanguBai Kathiawadi hits theatres today, and none of the many cases filed stood the ground in Bombay High Court and Supreme Court.