“When Inshallah was called off, I owed it to Alia Bhatt to make another film” – says Gangubai Kathiawadi director Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Written by Swaati on March 6, 2022
“I have never experienced so much love for any of my films,” says Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director of such epoch-making blockbusters as Devdas and Bajirao Mastani. “Someone sent me a video from Gaiety cinema (Mumbai’s iconic single theatre) , audiences were repeating the dialogues, dancing to the songs. It is as if they’ve connected to Gangubai in the way that I wanted to,” says Bhansali who was advised to not make a bio-pic on such a controversial figure. Alia Bhatt stars in the titular role.
“But it was a dream. No, it was more than a dream. It was an obsession. I walked around with her story in my head for years. I wanted to make Gangubai for many years. But every time I was advised by my team to make something else. This time after Padmaavat, I decided it had to be Gangubai,” says the delighted director.
“I knew Gangubai Kathiawadi would be loved. But I never expected this kind of unanimous acceptance for her amazing life,” says the director happily.
The praise from within his own fraternity is deafening. “It’s my mother’s prayers which have been answered. For three years she prayed for her son’s Gangubai dream to come true,” the director gets emotional.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is all praise for his leading lady, “When Inshallah (the film that SLB was to direct with Alia and Salman Khan) was called off, I owed it to Alia to make another film with her. Many thought I was making a mistake in casting Alia in Gangubai Kathiawadi, that she was too petite for the role. But I saw my Gangubai in Alia. And she gave her all, and then some more to the role.”
Bhansali rates Alia’s performance as Gangubai as among the best. “It is certainly among the finest performances I’ve gotten out of my actors. Gangubai required Alia to change her body language, voice, even the look in her eyes. I threw the challenge at her and she was more than up to it.”
The director feels Gangubai Kathiawadi is not his achievement alone. “It’s the team. Alia of course, then the rest of the cast, each one so brilliant, the art direction by Pallab Chanda and Vinayak Joshi, the production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray, the costumes by Sheetal Sharma, the choreography by Kruti Mahesh, the background score by Ankit & Sanchit Balhara, the cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee…each one of these is the hero of Gangubai Kathiawadi,” says Bhansali gratefully.