Alia Bhatt's 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' vs 'Mafia Queens of Mumbai'
How much did Bhansali depart from Hussain Zaidi's book 'Mafia Queens of Mumbai' in his film 'Gangubai Kathiawadi'?
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's new film Gangubai Kathiawadi is liberally based on a section from Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands, written by S Hussain Zaidi with Jane Borges published in 2011. The very structure of the 2 hour 30 minute dramatically choreographed, grand cinematic experience featuring Alia Bhatt is derived from the 38-page long story titled The Matriarch of Kamathipura.
As in the book, Gangubai Kathiawadi starts with the audience witnessing a 15-year-old girl who has been sold to prostitution, being forcefully decked up for a client. She does not relent, and so the madam of the brothel calls Gangubai for help. Alia as Gangubai makes her entry, cajoles the girl to drink water and slips into a flashback about her own past.
Surprisingly, Bhansali has chosen to leave out some interesting details from the book that could have added to the drama of the story probably owing to the length of the material already.
Here's a look at some of the parts that didn't make it to Bhansali's take on Gangubai's life story.
Gangubai's Early Life as Ganga and Marriage
Gangubai's early life as Ganga in Kathiawadi and her affair with Ramnik has some vivid detailing in Zaidi's book. While the film just shows one interaction between Ramnik and Ganga before he convinces her to run away to Mumbai, the book tells us that Ramnik was Ganga's father's newly appointed accountant.
"She found herself drawn to him and began looking for excuses to chat with him. She would visit him on the pretext of offering him tea and lunch in the small room in the corner of her bungalow, and Ramnik did not seem to mind sparing a few minutes of his time for her,” the book says.
Ramnik not only took advantage of Ganga's innocence but also her desire to visit Mumbai and passion for films and acting. The book also mentions how he met her secretly outside her school and that they also got married in a temple Kathiawad before they boarded the train to Mumbai without telling her parents.
Gangubai Ties a Rakhi to Karim Lala
Bhansali stays loyal to the portions in the book where Gangubai seeks help from Karim Lala after a Pathan named Shaukat from his gang rapes and brutalises her. Surprisingly though the filmmaker didn't include a part wherein according to the book, Gangubai emotionally bonds with Karim Lala by tying a rakhi on his hand, thus getting one of the area's most influential mafia leaders to protect her.
“Gangu smiled and removed a small thread from her purse. ‘Karim bhai, it has been years since I tied a rakhi for anyone because ever since I was brought here, I never felt safe with any man. Today, by offering me protection, you have only reinstilled my faith in brotherhood.’
The Pathan ganglord was amazed at Gangu’s impudence. A young woman, who just a few minutes ago had said that she was ready to be his mistress, was now telling him she wanted to make him her brother. He smiled and brought his hand forward and allowed her to tie the thread, saying ‘You have my word on this. From now on you are my sister,” states Zaidi's book.
This appears to be such an apt melodramatic moment for a Bhansali film.
The Meeting With PM Jawaharlal Nehru
Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi impressively dramatises both Gangu's speech at Azad Maidan at a meeting for women's empowerment and support of the girl child, and her meeting with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. 'The President of Kamathipura' brings up the issue of the discrimination and marginalisation of sex workers both at the Azad Maidan gathering and in her meeting with Nehru in Delhi.
Again Bhansali has left out what could have been a 'punch dialogue' here from Gangubai that would have drawn claps and whistles from the audience. According to the book:
“During the meeting, Nehru asked her why she had gotten into the business when she could have easily landed herself a good job or husband.
An intrepid Gangubai is said to have thrown a proposal at him. She told him that if he was ready to make her Mrs Nehru, she would be willing to abandon her business for good. Nehru was taken aback, and reprimanded her for having dared to talk to him like that. But a calm Gangubai smiled and said, ‘Don’t get angry Pradhan Mantriji. I just wanted to prove a point; it is always easier to preach than practise.’ Nehru remained silent.”
This scene is made for a mainstream film and Alia would have hit it out of the park, but Bhansali keeps Gangubai's meeting with the Prime Minister subdued. Were these scenes shot and later cut out at the edit table or was it a well thought out decision to not include them at all at the script level? We'll have to hear it from Bhansali himself to find out.
Book excerpts from: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands, written by S Hussain Zaidi with Jane Borges, published by Tranquebar Press.
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