Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Alia Bhatt, Shantanu Maheshwari, Vijay Raaz, Indira Tiwari, Seema Pahwa, Varun Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Ajay Devgn, Huma Qureshi
What’s It About
Born into the family of a barrister in Kathawadi, Ganga Harjivandas (Alia Bhatt) aspired to become a Bollywood actress. She fell in love with Ramnik Lal (Varun Kapoor), who promised to get her work as an actress. The two eloped and came to Mumbai. Turns out Ramnik had made a deal to sell Ganga to a brothel in Mumbai’s Kamathipura for Rs 1000. The owner of the brothel (Seema Pahwa) forces Ganga into prostitution and thereby attaining the name Gangubai. What entails in Gangubai’s life for the next 20 years is all that the film is about. From being forced into prostitution to becoming the leader of the sex workers in Kamathipura to eventually meeting up with the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehra, Gangubai’s life goes through a lot of ups and downs. Will she be able to do some good for the sex workers of the Kamathipura area? Or will she eventually get beaten up by the ghosts of her past? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
There is no doubt that Alia Bhatt is a wonderful actress. She has proved it in the past, but with this one, she surpasses all of them. She pulls off the best performance of her career yet. Whether it is the innocence of a young girl wanting to run off to Mumbai to be an actress, or being the beaten up girl asking for justice in front of a dreaded gangster, or being the woman who stands up for the equal rights of the sex-workers in front of a crowd – she has aced every scene with equal grace.
But was her act exactly how the real-life Gangubai was? Well, that’s debatable. But if you look at the performance from a layman’s lens, Bhatt has managed to once again prove to everyone why she is called the best actress among the younger lot of heroines in Bollywood today.
At the end of the movie, you would be left wanting to have seen more of two actors. The first is Ajay Devgn. Even in a very minimal screen time, Devgn has managed to bring in his towering persona and give a performance that suited his stature perfectly. With his brooding looks, he captured every frame to perfection. He has played a similar role as a do-gooder gangster in ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbai’ as well, and Devgn once again fit the bill aptly in this film. The second actor whom you want to see more of onscreen is Vijay Raaz. Playing a transgender, Raaz has very little screen time, but he manages to capture your attention with the minutest of detailing. Right from the way he looks into the mirror to adjust his glasses to the way he holds Alia Bhatt’s hand tightly to eat Nalli Nihari, Raaz is a pure delight to watch onscreen. The rest of the supporting cast including Seema Pahwa and Shantanu Maheshwari have played their parts well.
The music of the film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is spot on. While you don’t end up seeing too many of the lavish dance sequences which have been a regular in his films, but you end up seeing a couple of them with Alia Bhatt showing off her prowess in Garba. However, the best was the Arijit Singh number ‘Muskurahat’, which sadly, Bhansali kept for the closing titles.
Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography also has to be lauded. He ensured that despite being a pretty much indoor shoot, none of the sequences seemed too dull, and they looked lively in every shot. The detailing that Bhansali is known for, leaves its mark once again thanks to the brilliant camera work by Chatterjee and his team.
The major letdown of the movie is Alia Bhatt’s make-up. Whether she is playing the 16-year-old Ganga or the 27-28-year-old Gangubai, Bhatt looks pretty much the same. While her hairstyle and costumes change, but the prosthetic make-up could have been much better so as to make Bhatt look a lot older and, in turn, mature. While she is acting mature and standing up to the oppression of the world, but she is not aptly looking exactly that.
An actor of the calibre of Jim Sarbh is completely wasted in a role that didn’t have too much to do. Playing a journalist, who seems to be smitten by Gangubai’s aura and beliefs, the character could have been played by just about any other junior artiste, and it didn’t demand someone like Sarbh for it.
The set design by Pallab Chanda seems a bit too artistic. In an attempt to make the sets look realistic keeping in mind the era in which the story is set, Chanda has made things look a bit too posh. Baring aside a couple of shots in the initial parts of the film, the entire look and feel of Kamathipura is too neat and clean. In reality, it was always a very dingy locality, and that feel of the area is completely missing by a huge mark. Considering that the entire locality of Kamathipura hasn’t gone into redevelopment for almost 50-60 years, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to set the entire film in real-life locations.
Lastly, the direction by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is sort of becoming repetitive. You know beforehand the trajectory of the characters and what’s going to happen to them. That predictability kills a bit of the fun. There are numerous instances that way. Also, the movie drags a bit in the middle. A bit crisper editing of those portions could have shortened the length of the movie by another 10 minutes or so. Bhansali and Editor Rajesh Pandey would have to be held accountable for that.
If you’re not too much into historical accuracies and are willing to watch this movie purely as a story that is loosely based on the real-life Gangubai, and not fully based on her, then you’re bound to have a great time watching the film. It’s a definite Must Watch. Maybe, for the historic connoisseurs, this is a movie that can be skipped. A re-reading of the Hussain Zaidi book ‘Mafia Queens Of Mumbai’, from which the movie is inspired, would be a much more pleasurable read. For the film, I am going with 3 stars.