‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ in trouble

‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, the upcoming biopic runs into trouble after a defamation case gets filed against the film and the novel.

A metropolitan court in Mumbai has issued summons to actor Alia Bhatt, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, authors S. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges, and the producers of Gangubai Kathiawadi. Sanjay is directing a film, based on a chapter from Hussain and Jane’s book ‘The Mafia Queens of Mumbai’. Alia plays the titular role of a brothel owner in the upcoming movie.

The summons was issued last week by Metropolitan Magistrate, Mazgaon, but the detailed order was made available on Wednesday. The summons was issued to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Bhansali Productions, the authors and Ms. Bhatt in connection with a criminal defamation complaint.

The film is based on a novel written by S. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges, and is being produced by Bhansali Productions. The biopic is based on the life of Gangubai Kathiawadi, the brothel queen of Mumbai’s red-light district Kamathipura. Gangubai Kathiawadi will release on July 30.

In his book, Mr Zaidi describes Gangubai as a small woman – just five-feet-tall – who commanded huge respect in Kamathipura. Ganga (Gangubai) ran away from her home after secretly marrying her father’s accountant, Ramnik Laal. The two arrived in Mumbai, where Ramnik tricked her and sold her into prostitution for Rs 500. According to details provided in Mafia Queens Of Mumbai, Ganga gave up her original name and became Gangu at this point. In his book, Mr Zaidi notes that Gangubai was famous for never pushing a woman into the sex trade against her will. Instead, she was known as “the only brothel madam who did not give priority to business and money but to women.”

“Strength, Power, Fear,” is how Sanjay Leela Bhansali had described Alia Bhatt’s character.

A defamation case was filed by Babuji Shah through lawyer Narendra Dubey. Mr. Shah, the adopted son of Gangubai Kathiawadi, said chapters in the novel on his mother were defamatory, tarnished her reputation and infringed upon the right to privacy and self-respect.

Mr. Shah, in his complaint, said Kathiawadi was a social worker who fought for the rights of sex workers, and lived her life with dignity and respect.

The court, after hearing the submissions, said, “Even if it is considered that she was prostitute, that does not mean that anybody has permission or write to show or mention her as a prostitute in public.”

It further said no consent was obtained from Mr. Shah prior to the publishing of the novel or release of the promotional trailer.

The order further said, “The novel was already published, however, the complainant has claimed that he had no knowledge of the book and came into light only on the social media, news and transmission of the promo of the upcoming film. In the novel as well as the promo they have not only used the name of his mother but also used her surname along with the residential area i.e. Kamathipura, where his deceased mother was identified and had a reputation in the society, before her death.”

“To portray the image of deceased Gangubai without consent of family members amount to defaming her image,” it added. Finding that there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused, the court issued process returnable on May 25, 2021.

References:

The Hindu

Hindustan Times

Image Sources:

• The Quint

• Aaj Tak

• Vogue

Kaniz Fatima

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