• Golden Globe Awards

Gangubai Kathiawadi (India)

One of the biggest hits of 2022 in India, the Hindi-language Gangubai Kathiawadi, is credited for bringing moviegoers back to theaters and reviving the Indian box office after Covid. The film opened at the Berlin Film Festival in February, has grossed over $26 million worldwide, and is now available on Netflix – where it’s the most-watched Indian film globally.
Gangubai Kathiawadi is based on a chapter in the book “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” by S. Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges. It tells the story of Ganga Kathiawadi, the daughter of a barrister who, in 1960, was sold into prostitution by a boyfriend at age 16, for 1000 rupees (about $1000 today). She eventually overcame her enslavement to not only own the brothel but become a political activist advocating for the rights of sex workers. Shrewd alliances with local gangsters helped in her rise. She even met with the then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to discuss the issue of legalizing prostitution.
The title role is played by Bollywood star Alia Bhatt (who also performs in this year’s hit film RRR). The film is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who also co-wrote the screenplay and composed the music. Bhansali became known to US audiences with the BAFTA-nominated Devdas, in 2002.
Bhatt told Variety she had auditioned for Bhansali’s film Black when she was nine years old, and always wanted to work with him even though he didn’t cast her in that film. The actress talked about the research she did to prepare for the role. “I read the book, we met the author, spoke to him about certain characteristics that were unique to Gangubai, the way she would speak to people, the mind games she would play, how theatrical she was — she wanted to become an actress, she exuded that aura,” she told Variety. 
The film also stars Bollywood superstar Ajay Devgn as the gangster who befriends Gangubai. Veteran actress Seema Pahwa plays the brothel’s madam, Sheela Masi. Indira Tiwari, as Kamli, is the sex worker who becomes Gangubai’s best friend and whose child she adopts. Vijay Raaz, as Raziabai, brings to life a transexual woman who is Gangubai’s arch nemesis. The casting of the latter role has caused some controversy as the actor playing Raziabai is not trans.
Gangubai Kathiawadi was one of India’s entries to the Golden Globes for consideration in the Best Non-English Language Film category.