“Gangubai Kathiawadi places Alia Bhatt at the front and centre of a narrative that champions sex work but most of all venerates its impeccably styled heroine. Although beautifully filmed and less grandiloquent than some of Bhansali’s other productions, Gangubai Kathiawadi is about as bloodless, more concerned with technical perfection and the showcasing of its star lead than the complexities of the subject matter.”
“Like most Bhansali films, Gangubai Kathiawadi is a visually seductive spectacle, and like he does with all his leading stars, Bhansali mounts Alia Bhatt on a scale so grand that she feels almost cosmic — not of this land and earth. In return, Bhatt graces the film with a powerhouse performance that doesn’t just own the character she is playing, but also fires up the film.”
“I never considered Alia much of a dancer but her feverish energy in Dholida transcends the screen… Living an inglorious life on her own terms, refusing to let anyone see through her pain and loneliness, exhibiting effrontery and maturity as a defence mechanism, her emotions are visible in fits and bursts. She feels in control only when she is pushing the envelope and herself out of her comfort zone. Working on a movie so intensely can transform an actor. Something in Alia has surely changed after Gangubai. Her entire performance is about proving to herself and not to the world what she can do. And there can be no better artistic evolution than that.”
“Classic Hindi cinema has always had a special relationship with the world’s oldest profession. Courtesans and prostitutes in our films have largely been portrayed as noble souls, with a yen for articulating their miseries and worldview in profound language, with little of the nature of their work seen on screen. Bhansali’s film, firmly rooted in that tradition, is no exception. And so you have the film beginning with Begum Akhtar’s ‘Yeh na thi hamari kismat’ on the soundtrack while in another scene Gangubai is shown reading Ghalib’s poetry.”
“The only way you can enjoy Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi is to embrace its extravagantly-constructed universe — the elaborate sets that make up the red-light area of Kamathipura that becomes the location of most of the film’s run-time, the frames which look like art deco paintings, and, most crucially, the very youthful and very fair-and-lovely Alia Bhatt.”
“Really, when was the last time you saw, practically an underworld film, as a feminine story; or indeed the mafia as a feminine genre? Which explains a largely women audience in the first day, first day show (FDFS) of Gangubai Kathiawadi in the theatre I’m at. And that’s rare.”
“Two main forces propel this drama, Bhansali and Bhatt, the literal and the literary…. The pace, the performance, the tonality – they are all in sync…. Bhatt – by far – is the best actor in Hindi commercial cinema, but here she’s sensational, even by her own standards. Her command on the craft is just so assured – so light and sublime – that it produces a bewitching effect.”
“I am no fan of SLB, thanks to his distortion of Saratchandra’s novel in Devdas, his dancification (I just coined the word) of the Peshwa in Bajirao Mastani, and the glorification of Sati in Padmaavat. But I have to reluctantly confess that I can’t find too much to fault in his latest offering… Alia Bhatt is a tad too young and pretty for the part, but she delivers admirably in a demanding role.”
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