After the superhit Bollywood movie on the life of Gangubai Kathiawadi featuring Alia Bhatt, the character caught the public eye. The movie by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of the highest grossing movies that showcased the struggles and hard work of the brothel owner. If you are curious to know more about Gangubai Kathiawadi real story, you are at the right place.
In this article, we are going to discuss all about Mumbai’s well-known and influential brothel owner. She was famous for her style of wearing mostly white sarees with broad golden borders and for wearing a big red bindi on her forehead.
Here is everything about the real Gangubai Kathiawadi:
The real name of Gangubai Kathiawadi
Gangubai Kathiawadi real name was Ganga Harjivandas. She hailed from the state of Gujarat in India. She was born and raised in a well-recognized well-read family in the Kathiawad region of Gujarat. She was popular as one of the Mafia Queens of Mumbai.
“Mafia Queens of Mumbai” (2011) by Hussain Zaidi is an Indian non-fiction criminal novel. It has details about the lives of 13 women who influenced Mumbai. In the 50s and 60s, she was among the most influential brothel owners in Mumbai.
Gangubai Kathiawadi real story
Based on the information mentioned in “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” (2011) by Hussain Zaidi. Gangubai had a dream of becoming a Bollywood actor. When she was young she always aspired to go to Bombay(Mumbai) to fulfill her dreams.
She fell in love with a guy named Ramnik Lal when she was 16 years old. The man Ramnik Lal was an accountant for her father. Back at that time, Ganga was in college. Gangubai fled with Ramnik Lal from her home in Kathiawad to Bombay(Mumbai) to settle down. She married him to start a new life.
But a few days later, her husband deceived her. He sold her to a brothel for Rs 500. Things went horribly wrong for Ganga and she had to start working as a prostitute in Mumbai. After that, her life completely changed.
How Gangubai Kathiawadi became the ”Mafia Queen”
Gangubai became very popular as one of the notable names in the Mumbai red-light areas known as “Kamathipura”. Her clients included several underworld mafia people.
In the 1960s, the city had a lot of mafia gangs. Karim Lala was one of the powerful Mafia faces of Bombay(Mumbai). The red light area of Kamathipura was also under his rule. According to the description in the book, one of Karim Lal’s gang members raped Gangubai in a brutal manner. She was exploited financially and physically by a goon named Shaukat Khan Pathan. Hence, she went to Karim Lala to seek justice. After this, Shaukat Khan was cautioned and roughed up by Lala.
Later, the relationship between Gangubai with Karim Lala took a different turn. Gangubai tied a rakhi to his wrist and made him her brother. Karim Lala had faith in his sister and gave the reign of Kamathipura to Gangubai. So, this is how Gangubai became known as one of Mumbai’s “Mafia Queens”
Gangubai was devoted to work for the betterment of all sex workers and even met PM Jawahar Lal Nehru
As per sources, Gangubai Kathiawadi faced lots of hardships in her life. She struggled a lot to gain respect in society. So, she was determined to work for the improvement of the living standards of all sex workers.
She was never seen exploiting young girls and women. Unlike others, during that time she never forced anyone into prostitution. She was like a godmother to orphans and sex workers. She cared for all the women and children living in Kamathipura like a mother.
A school was established in Kamathipura in 1922. It started a campaign to cleanse the area of “bad influence”. This resulted in an order to move the brothel. Gangubai strongly opposed this and even spoke to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Gangubai Kathiawadi fought for the rights of sex workers
She was a brave woman who knew her ways. Gangubai counseled many young women who left their homes to work in movies and got stuck in prostitution. She sent them back. For this reason, she was respectfully called Gangubai Ganga Maa (mother) by everyone.
Even today, the people of Kamathipura remember her and her contribution to the upliftment. A big statue is installed in that area to remember her and pictures of Gangubai still grace the walls of the brothels.
When Gangubai Kathiawadi approached former PM, Jawaharlal Nehru
Gangubai once visited the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to talk about the hardships faced by sex workers in the country. She discussed the poor living condition of the sex workers. PM Jawaharlal Nehru listened to her and consented to her proposal to protect the red light areas.
Gangubai Kathiawadi death
Bungalow Number 5, a sprawling complex was Gangubai’s address in Kamathipura. It housed nearly 200 “girls”, domestic helps, and adopted children.
Gangubai passed away on September 8, 2008, at the age of 85.
‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ Movie
Gangubai Kathiawadi movie by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Jayantilal Gada was released on 25th February 2022. The film is based on the Gangubai Kathiawadi real story. The film on the life of Ganga Harjivandas received a great response from the audience.
Gangubai’s life was documented in the book ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’ by S. Hussain Zaidi. The film is also based on the book. Alia Bhatt plays the protagonist and she did a very good job of portraying the character of Gangubai Kathiawadi. The other actors featured in the film include Shantanu Maheshwari, Indira Tiwari, Vijay Raaz, and Seema Pahwa. Ajay Devgn also has a cameo appearance.
Superstar Amitabh Bachchan penned a letter of appreciation for Alia Bhatt after watching Gangubai Kathiawadi real story. The letter read,
“Alia, you are beyond magnificent in Gangubai”
The actor also conveyed a lack of “short of words” while praising the actress.
Some reports suggest Gangubai Kathiawadi’s adopted daughter Babita was not happy with the depiction of her mother
According to the print edition of “Kamathipura’s Matriarch”. Babita reacted to the depiction of her mother in the book, Babita said,
“This is absolutely false. My mother met Karim Lala to resolve the problems of the people. There are people from every state in Kamathipura. They were being exploited. My mother stood up for them and helped them. She was a queen, not a mafia queen”
So, if we talk about Gangubai Kathiawadi real story, her daughter Babita stated that her mother lived like a queen and helped others who have been exploited like her. She said,
“Ours was the first house to have a B&W TV and a refrigerator. There were about 200 girls who worked for my mother”
“She stood up for the rights of everyone who worked in Kamathipura. The women who worked here had so many problems. My mother solved them through her contacts. Everyone respected her”
Speaking about her mother, she added,
”My mother was bindass. She spoke her mind. She never spared anyone who was wrong.
She always drank Rani chaap whiskey. She played matka (a form of gambling), went to the horse races and had many domestic helps. She had a white Ambassador car and looked after 25 street dogs. She would feed grains to pigeons and sparrows and jaggery-masur dal to stray cows. Every Thursday, there would be a line of beggars queuing up outside our bungalow. She would give them money and food”
”My mother had a heart of gold. This is the reason people in the lane have her photographs on their walls”