Gangubai Kathiawadi review – gutsy Indian true crime drama

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The hard-hitting story of a sex worker who rises through the ranks of 60s gangland Mumbai is powered by a magnetic performance from Alia BhattA rowdy, wayward Hindi crime drama set in the red light district of 1960s Mumbai, Gangubai Kathiawadi may romanticise its central character – sex worker turned madam turned advocate and campaigner Gangu (Alia Bhatt) – but the film takes a razor blade to the cosier conventions of the melodrama. This is hard-hitting stuff. Gangu is trafficked into prostitution by a man she loved. But within a year in her new life, she realises that she has power. Bidi cigarette dangling from her lip, armed with a bottle of sugarcane alcohol and a cool, appraising gaze that turns grown men into snivelling boys, Gangu is magnetic, an all-too-rare female antihero.And Bhatt is terrific, tearing through the film, her performance gathering momentum, as respect, desire and a certain amount of fear flickers in the eyes of those around her. Loosely based on a real-life woman, featured in the nonfiction book Mafia Queens of Mumbai, this is a broad brushstrokes portrait, but it’s robustly entertaining stuff from director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Devdas). Continue reading…