Gangubai Kathiawadi

Gangubai Kathiawadi (1939): The Story of Intriguing Mafia Queen of Kamathipura

Gangubai Kathiawadi, the name of a woman who was one of the few female bigwigs in the 1970’s and the title of the Alia Bhatt movie that is set to hit the theatres on 30th July 2021.
Gangubai was commonly referred to as the Queen of Kamathipura.

It was so because of her relentless efforts in uplifting the lives of brothel workers in the region.

Alia Bhatt’s theatrical release of the movie amid the pandemic puts the dark and non-televised journey of Gangubai Kathiawadi on the big screens.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s directorial has similarly got into legal trouble as his previous films like Padmavat, for instance. Gangubai’s adopted son, Babuji Shah, has filed a lawsuit against the lead actress, Alia Bhatt, and the director to stop producing the biographic thriller.
As per the public domain information, the litigation is focused on the invasion of privacy in Gangubai Kathiawadi’s life.

Gangubai Kathiawadi
Gangubai Kathiawadi

According to Babuji Shah, Alia Bhatt’s portrayal of the character vilifies his mother and is a defamatory attack on her family. Also, according to his allegations, the film bogs down the persona of Gangubai.

Through showing her connections with the underworld dons. As of now, the matter would get dealt with under the concerned laws. And the judiciary has still not concluded the release of the film.

The movie is based on the famous underworld generic writer S. Hussain Zaidi’s book, The Mafia Queens of Mumbai. It is an adaptation of a chapter that features the life of Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Zaidi’s work has gotten adapted in some Bollywood dramas like Black Friday and Shootout at Wadala.

With Alia Bhatt playing the real-life character, Gangubai Kathiawadi, it will be the second film based on a female gangster of Bombay, present-day Mumbai. Haseena Parkar, released in 2017, was the first one in which Shraddha Kapoor portrayed the titular role.

This article narrates the story of the Queen of Kamathipura in a nutshell.

Also, we would tell you the two character traits of the female protagonist that distinguishes her persona.

Gangubai Kathiawadi’s Life in Brief.

Born and brought up in a wealthy family in Kathiawar of Gujarat, Gangubai’s name before coming to Kamathipura was Ganga Harijeevandas Kathiawadi. Her family consisted of well-known lawyers of that era, and likely she was also supposed to become one too. But since her childhood, the glamour of the cinema in Mumbai attracted her more than the books. Because of which she was considered the black sheep of the family.


When Gangubai Kathiawadi was merely sixteen years old, she fell into the trap of love with a young man, Ramneek Lal. Ramneek Lal was the accountant of Gangubai’s father. Considering the assumptive disapproval of her parents, she eloped with her loved one to Mumbai.

But fate had something altogether different in hold for Gangubai Kathiawadi. And she had to confront the most painful incident at a young age that turned her life upside down. Her boyfriend, Ramneek, sold her to a brothel in Kamathipura for a sum of rupees five hundred. The betrayal and helplessness made Gangubai Kathiawadi fall into the clutches of prostitution.

At the beginning of her life as a brothel worker, she tried to resist and escape the gruesome world.
But all her efforts went unsuccessful because of the web of problems that surrounded her.
And gradually, with time Ganga Harijeevandas Kathiawadi transformed to Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Once a customer named Shaukat Khan, a low-key mafia and subordinate of Karim Lala, one of the biggest mafia of Mumbai in the 1960s raped Gangubai in an inhumane way. The sexual assault by Shaukat Khan even made Gangubai Kathiawadi hospitalized. After returning from the hospital, she searched for Karim Lala with an expectation of justice.

Once she met the kingpin, Karim, she described the attacks on her dignity and requested appropriate action. After listening to her pain, Karim assured the strictest action against Shaukat for his cruel deeds. Gangubai became emotional after seeing the concern of Karim towards her and tied a thread on his hand, Rakhi. And Shaukat Khan was thrashed mercilessly by Karim and his goons.

Furthermore, Karim Lala publicly announced Gangubai as his sister who made a stir of Gangubai in Kamathipura.

It was this incident that started the activist journey of Gangubai Khatiawadi.

Owing to the stronghold created after the Shaukat Khan’s incident, she contested and won the elections of Gharwali in Kamathipura. Gharwali was a term used for the woman who managed the rooms’ administration in a brothel building. And through winning the subsequent elections of the hierarchical administration of Kamathipura, she became the President of the area.

Until her death in 1978, Gangubai Kathiawadi worked extensively for the welfare of the downtrodden workers in Kamathipura. She worked towards maintaining coherence between the work and dignity of the brothel workers. And earned the title of Madam of Kamathipura or Queen of Kamathipura.

How does her story inspire us?

Gangubai Kathiawadi
Gangubai Kathiawadi

Though brothel workers are usually looked down upon because of their work culture and several other reasons, two significant factors can be threaded out from Gangubai’s story.

Respect for Work: Often, we often crib out our work environment and the nature of our jobs.
That makes us feel gloomy and depressed, causing mental stress and a wide array of problems.
The story of Gangubai Kathiawadi displays her unshakable pride in her work, which is looked down on by the significant sections of society.
Also, the character propagates the message of preparing for the uncertainties of life.

Power & Fight for Rights: The rise of Gangubai from a young brothel worker to the President of Kamathipura depicts her character’s strength and development.
Her advocacy for the upliftment of the brothel workers highlights her fighting spirit against a hollow system. The relentless efforts of Gangubai were so evident and massive that they made the then Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, chaired a meeting with her to discuss the plight of women in Kamathipura.

Will Alia Bhatt succeed in justifying the character onscreen?

Though no one can yet conclude about the actors’ performance in the film set to release this year on 30th July, the casting signals an eye-capturing thriller ahead. Alia Bhatt has delved into a wide range of emotions on screen through acting in movies like Raazi and Highway, to name a few.

That would undoubtedly have helped her during the picturization of Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Also, a slight indication of Alia Bhatt’s performance’s strength is evident in the trailer that got released last month.

If you haven’t seen it watch it here!

What do you think?


Written by Harsh Srivastava


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