Sanjay Leela Bhansali says people told him not to make Gangubai Kathiawadi: 'Have ticked all the wrong boxes'

Feb 18, 2023 03:45 PM IST

After launching his upcoming Netflix series Heeramandi, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali spoke about the gamble he took when he made his last film, Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt. He shared that everyone told him not to make the film.

On Saturday, Sanjay Leela Bhansali revealed the cast and first look of his upcoming Netflix series Heeramandi, his most ambitious project yet. The filmmaker was in conversation with the Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos about their upcoming collaboration. But he also spoke about his last film, Gangubai Kathiawadi, which became a blockbuster hit last year. He revealed that he had been advised by everyone not to make it as it would not appeal to audiences. (Also read: Heeramandi teaser: Sonakshi Sinha, Manisha Koirala, Aditi Rao Hydari are courtesans in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's show)

Alia Bhatt plays the title character in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi.
Alia Bhatt plays the title character in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt as the lead character, featured the actor as a young woman from Gujarat who is sold into prostitution in the Kamathipura red light district of Mumbai. Eventually, she rises to become the brothel madam and represents the district to protect the rights of the other prostitutes. The film also starred Ajay Devgn, Shantanu Maheshwari, Vijay Raaz, Indira Tiwari, Seema Pahwa and Jim Sarbh.

The filmmaker, who was on a panel with Sarandos, said, "People told me not to make Gangubai. It's a female-centric film, it's a female protagonist. In India, they do not got a female-[led] subject. The box office has never worked. She's playing a sex worker and then there's no hero. All the tick marks you would put to understand the audience and the scenario, I have ticked all the wrong boxes. But it worked. That's the belief."

The film was announced in 2019 and eventually got delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ajay, who had worked with Sanjay, earlier had a special appearance in the film as gangster Rahim Lala.

After premiering at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, Gangubai Kathiawadi was released in theatres on February 25, 2022. Alia's performance was lauded by both fans and critics and the film earned over 150 crore at the domestic box office. Sanjay also composed the score of Gangubai Kathiawadi; songs like Meri Jaan and Dholida were praised for the music and also their choreography.

Meanwhile, the period drama Heeramandi stars Sonakshi Sinha, Manisha Koirala, Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Shaikh and Sharmin Segal. Set in Lahore, the series followed the lives of the courtesans of that era. The series is due to be out on the streaming platform sometime this year.

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