Teaser Talk: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Maximalism Is Back With Gangubai Kathiawadi, Starring Alia Bhatt, Who Bows To Neither Pimp Nor Politician, Film Companion

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s aesthetic mode is maximalism. His nurse wears Sabyasachi. His poverty is snow white clothes. His sex-workers are wretched beauty. His homeless wear keys on strings attached to their shirts. Understandably, his underground world in Gangubai Kathiawadi, where the sex workers of Kamathipura bleed into the electoral and political landscape of 1960s Bombay, is alternatively neon and diya lit. We have Chicago Radio mics and Bentley cars, but the world is strikingly Bhansali-esque. 

The 1 and a half minute teaser establishes Alia Bhatt as Gangubai, the feisty moon of the brothel who bows to neither pimp nor politician. Based on a chapter from Hussain Zaidi’s book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, the film follows the odyssey of this real life figure through her politics. The film is also said to star Ajay Devgn. 

Also Read: Hussain Zaidi, The Mumbai Crime Chronicler, On Netflix’s Class Of 83, The Valorization Of Encounter-Killings, And The Bollywood-Gangster Nexus

Earlier, Alia Bhatt was to star opposite Salman Khan for Bhansali’s Inshallah. However, due to some differences between the actor and the director, the project got shelved, and as Khan moved to finishing Radhe, Bhansali mobilized the crew, including his cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee (who also shot Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat), for this film. The two films were expected to clash in the theaters last year, but Salman Khan’s Eid release, Radhe, went directly to streaming with an extremely limited theatrical release. 

This film looks like both an extension and a deviation from Bhansali’s filmography. The usage of the voiceover, something he started in Ram Leela and continued till his last film Padmaavat, is used even in this teaser, and perhaps will make it to the film. On the other hand, it is noted that this film won’t have Bhatt perform any lip sync songs. Based on the trailer, even the costumes look appropriate to the times and character — simple, mostly white and pastels, punctuated by slight ornamentation, oxidized silver earrings and bangles, leather handbags, payal and that big red bindi. 

Initially meant to release 30th July, 2021, the release date kept being pushed back with subsequent COVID-19 waves. We finally have a new release date. The film will have its world premiere at the  72nd Berlin International Film Festival, and will release in theaters on February 25th, 2022. 

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