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What makes Gangubai Kathiawadi win box office all over?

Whatever might be the reason, for Alia Bhatt 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' has been a role that any actor would give her right hand to enact.

When Naushad had returned to holding the baton and creating music in 1982, he had chosen Asha Bhonsle as the lead female singer. When he was asked for his choice, he had a one-liner- Asha Bhonsle kee aawaj se aaj bhi wo bajaroopan nahi gaya i.e. the nuance of rendition that evoked the spirit of the kothas through vocal prowess was the defining motif for the choice.

Taking the argument of Naushad to etching the role of a character, it is the ability to enact the role with a panache and chutzpah of a nautch girl or the Bai is what becomes the motif of distinction for the character. Alia Bhat through her performance in GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI has underlined the premise that when a female actor is given to enact a character of a Bai or a kothewali she invariably comes out with a performance which wins accolades and scales the box office.

In the present times where the female actors are relegated for singing and dancing per se, for Alia Bhatt to enact the character of GANGUBAI KATHIWADI at such an age underlines her coming of age as an actor. She needed a director like Sanjay Leela Bhansali to announce to the world her arrival as an actor of mean repute.

Once a female can play the role of a nautch girl or a hooker, her performance graph as an actor undergoes amazing transformation and her reputation gets a lift. Be it a Meena Kumari whose swan song was PAKEEZAH or a REKHA who is identified and epitomized as UMRAO JAAN after she enacted the role of Umra Jaan, the cult status that the female actors acquire is a by-product of enactment of the role of a bazaroo girl. Or for that matter a Suchitra Sen, who had a rather less than a dominating presence in the world of cinema but left a permanence of her acting ability through the role of bai in MAMTA. Or for that matter a Nargis in AURAT, or in ADALAT, gave her finest performance in her acting oeuvre.

What gives a sense of permanence to these characters enacted by the female actors, GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI being the latest addition to this illustrative list, is that the process of enactment of these characters is shot through and through with the challenge to the male patriarchy. It is the male patriarchy that imposes the subjugation in its abominable format, and the rebel against this iron clad subjugation imposed by male patriarchy is what brings out the finesse of a performance. The female actors slip into the characters and draw from their prowess to create a performance of a lifetime.

The difference between GANGUBAI KATHIWADI and other such films of the genre however lies in the fact that the previous films had an excellent music and song to back the characterisation, which is not a facilitating tool for Alia Bhatt so far. May be when the music does gain ground, which is one of the defining motifs of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, it would further add to the wider commercial success for GANGUBAI KATHIWADI.

It is not that such enactment becomes a shining armour only for the female actors belonging to the domain only of the Hindi cinema. Such characterisation has also become the defining character in Hollywood as well. It is altogether a different matter that Hollywood comes with such enactments in an irregular manner. However, whenever it does flirt with this genre, it brings the house down.

Who can forget JULIA ROBERTS as the PRETTY WOMAN who enacted the role of a woman of the street who was out there to challenge the canons of the imposed male patriarchy to reduce it to shreds through gem of a performance. Julia Roberts just slipped into the character and gave the performance of a lifetime. Julia Roberts subsequently could not repeat the enactment of the PRETTY WOMAN!

It takes courage for an actor to slip into the role of the nautch girl and after enactment of such a character it becomes difficult to slip to a routine role as such enactment becomes the reference template for future performances and such roles do not come on a regular basis as such characterisations have to be picked up from the annals of history.

Could it be therefore one of such reasons that such enactments from a female character from the world of cinema of South India is nearly absent as the cultural landscape of South India, has been literally untouched by the cultural interjections of the Mughal era, though Devdasi tradition has been in existence for quite a long time even before the advent of the nautch girl in the Hindi belt landscape.

Whatever might be the reason, for Alia Bhatt GANGUBAI KATHIAWDAI has been a role that any actor would give her right hand to enact. May more such characters’ bloom through the baton of Sanjay Leela Bhansali in future as well!

CELEBRITY GALLERY

Avika Gor

Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu

Nazriya Nazim

Ananya Panday

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