The trailer of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi that was released today reveals a fuller picture of Alia Bhatt as a tough-talking madam. Bhatt, in her first collaboration with Bhansali, plays the titular heroine who begins as a sex worker and goes on to become the uncrowned queen of Mumbai’s red light district Kamathipura.

The movie is based on a chapter in Mafia Queens of Mumbai by S Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges. According to the authors, the real-life Gangubai was a powerful madam in Kamathipura until her death in the 1970s. Described in the book as “a force in society in her own right”, Gangubai reportedly used her clout to prevent Kamathipura’s brothels from being shut down.

Gangubai Kathiawadi will be premiered at the Berlin Film Festival on February 16 and released in cinemas in India on February 25. Bhansali’s first film since Padmaavat (2018) also stars Ajay Devgn, Vijay Raaz and Jim Sarbh.

Bhansali has scored the music. The cinematography is by Sudeep Chatterjee, who also lensed Padmaavat.

Bhansali’s upcoming projects include a Netflix series Heeramandi. “The show will explore stories of courtesans and the hidden cultural reality of Heeramandi, a dazzling district, during pre-independent India,” a press release stated. “It’s a series about love, betrayal, succession and politics in the kothas which promises Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s trademark larger than life sets, multi-faceted characters and soulful compositions.”

Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

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Who was Gangubai Kathiawadi, played by Alia Bhatt in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie?