Gangubai Kathiawadi runs into trouble again in Kamathipura

Poster for Gangubai Kathiawadi

Locals are now protesting against the area’s depiction in the film

Arushi Bhaskar

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period drama Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt in the titular role, has run into trouble again ahead of its release on February 25.

Residents of the Kamathipura area of Mumbai, where the film is set, have filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to remove the area’s name from the film. They are alleging that the film is giving the entire area a bad name by showing it as a ‘red light area’.

The film is a biopic based on the life of Gangubai Kothewali, also known as Gangubai Kathiawadi. She was a rich and powerful brothel owner in Kamathipura, and was referred to as the ‘Madam of Kamathipura’.

A chapter in the book Mafia Queens of Mumbai (2011) written by Hussain Zaidi focuses on her life, and is the source material for the film.

On February 17, Mumbadevi MLA Amin Patel had written to the state’s Cultural Affairs Minister Anil Deshmukh, protesting against the movie’s trailer. He said that it “maligns the image of Kamathipura locality & Kathiawadi community.”

In 2021, Gangubai’s son Babu Raoji Shah had sued the makers of Gangubai Kathiawadi for what he alleged was incorrect portrayal of his mother and defamation of his family.

However, the Bombay High Court refused to issue a stay on the release of the film and in its interim order stayed the criminal defamation proceedings against the makers of the film.