Whether it is Gangubai Kathiawadi or Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s portrayal of women in the sex trade has always been fascinating and poignant. Alia Bhatt plays the role of Gangubai in the movie that documents the rise of a brothel owner to a woman who was a crusader for the rights of sex workers and their children. Gangubai Kathiawadi was also known for her links with the underworld. In an interview with Film Companion, Sanjay Leela Bhansali said that as a kid he would see sex workers every day as he walked from school to home. The filmmaker grew up in a chawl in Bhuleshwar and Kamathipura is very close to that area.
He said that people are sensitive to what they see as kids. Sanjay Leela Bhansali said he recalls sex workers indicating to customers that their rate was Rs 20. He said he would wonder how could a person’s rate be Rs 20? Bhansali says that the questions stayed with him but he could not project them completely in any of his films. He told Film Companion, “I was finding them through Chandramukhi We are priceless for ourselves, we can’t be tagged. We can’t be sold for Rs 5 or Rs 20 or Rs 50. It is inhuman.”
Sanjay Leela Bhansali said that the faces of the women he saw had “tremendous stories”. He said they did a lot of makeup to hide their feelings of grief and pain. He said that nothing in the world could camouflage that feeling of grief. He told the channel, “The greatest makeup artist cannot take it away. You cannot. These are moments, for me as a filmmaker, they mattered.”
He will be exploring the world of courtesans even more in his upcoming project, Heeramandi for Netflix.