Don’t get me wrong. I love Alia Bhatt. She is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. And she’s a great learner on the sets. But when I heard Alia was playing a ferocious foul-mouthed gangster in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s replacement film Gangubai Kathiawadi —replacement for the Salman starrer Alia was originally supposed to do with Bhansali — I baulked.
From no angle did Alia look like a female don to me. Supriya Pathak in Bhansali’s Ram Leela is more like it. For me, the ultimate female don is Shabana Azmi in The Godmother. She possessed both the physical and emotional bandwidth to carry off the part with supreme confidence. Shabana stunned and rightfully won her fourth National Award for her rousing performance.
For Alia to look convincing as a seasoned trigger-happy crime lord (crimelady?) is to expect Shirley Temple to play Ms Maleficent. There are some things some actors can do. Others that they can’t. Case closed.
The poster of Alia as Gangubai exudes the kind of purity I saw on Sharmila Tagore’s face in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar. This is not what Bhansali intended. This is not what the character requires. The foul-mouthed ferocity of a woman making her way ruthlessly through a man’s murky world is completely alien to Alia. The character requires the aggressive outcasteism of a Sanjay Dutt. Alia lends her gentle supple expression to a woman who can’t even look at a gun, let alone use it.
From the first-look Alia Bhatt as Gangubai, Gangubai Kathiawadi seems a woeful case of miscasting. I hope I am wrong. But I already miss Alia’s desi Roman Holiday with Salman Khan. Insha Allah, they will get together some day.