Kamathipura’s reigning mafia queen who left Nehru gobsmacked

Having made it a habit to get heads rolling with unconventional roles, Alia Bhatt has already got people talking about her next with the release of the poster of Gangubhai Kathiawadi.

Gangubai Kathiawadi was the only girl child born in a well settled Gujarati family. Pampered by her parents to the extremes, she lived a royal childhood with everything at her beck and call. Having completed her schooling at a local government school she did not pursue academics any further.

Hailing from Kathiawar, Gujarat, Gangubai Kathiawadi was madly in love with the accountant at her father’s office at 16. She married and left home with the man. They came to Mumbai and settled down there. Just when she was dreaming of starting a new life, cheated by husband, she was sold off for a paltry sum of Rs 500. Harbouring the aspirations of always wanting to be a starlet, she admired divas of her generation like Asha Parekh, Hema Malini, and Meena Kumari. Ditched by her husband she was forced to became a sex worker. According to S Hussain Zaidi’s book, Gangubai was raped by a member of Karim Lala’s gang. Gangubai went to Karim Lala and pleaded. She tied a rakhi and made him brother. On Lala’s command Gangubai was officially coronated as a mafia queen.

Notorious as a gangster cum brothel madam in Mumbai’s Heera Mandi her real name was Gangubai Harjivandas. Gangubai slowly rose to prominence with links and social networking in the underworld. Someone who had gone through the rough and tumble of life, she went on to operate a number of brothels earning the sobriquet of the Madame of Kamathipura. A powerful mafia queen, she rode nothing less than a Black Bentley, the only brothel owner to have one in those times. Her most prominent den was the Heera Mandi red light district.

A very influential figure in Mumbai through the 60s, Gangubai tirelessly rallied for the rights of sex workers and well being of orphans. As someone who was for the end of the flesh trade market in Mumbai, even today the statue of Gangubai at Kamathipura, Mumbai is testimony of why she meant good for those she held dear to her. She was a strong votary for the point that their job didn’t authorise anyone to violate them.

A story goes that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was approached by her to ask him to do something so that lives of women in sex work could change. Legend has it that not only did she earn the respect of her own community, she also impressed Pandit Nehru by her wit and clarity of thoughts. When Nehru told her why don’t you find a good man and settle down in life and leave all this. Pat came the reply from Gangubai – will you marry me? To which Pt Nehru was left dumbfounded.

Of late, Alia Bhatt is creating quite a buzz after the poster of her next on the infamous Mafia queen Gangubai Kathiawadi was released and netizens are going gaga. The film based on the most powerful underworld personalities during the 60s  is written  and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Produced by Bhansali and Jayantilal Gada, it takes inspiration from a chapter of journalist turned author S Hussain Zaidi’s book Mafia Queens of Mumbai.

The film hits the silver screen on 11 September 2020. Making her debut as a young child actor in 1999 thriller Sangharsh, her big break was in KJo’s college drama Student of the Year.  Teaming up wth Johar proved fruitful for her with films like 2 States, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and Badrinath Ki Dulhania and Dear Zindagi in her kitty. Her recent outings like Udta Punjab, Highway, Raazi and Gully Boy have won her massive praise.

History justifiably so it seems has been kind to the reigning queen of Kamathipura.

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