Amid a series of controversial claims, Alia Bhatt starrer Bollywood film Gangubai Kathiwadi got released today.
Based on the chapters from Hussain Zaidi's book Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi has created quite a buzz, but film critics opine that not much is known about the real-life heroine.
Here is who Gangubai Kathiawadi really was and why her story gained national attention:
In Zaidi's book, the life of Ganga Harjeevandas Kathiawadi, a controversial but formidable figure in the 1960s, is detailed in the chapter titled 'The Matriarch of Kamathipura'.
Born in the village of Kathiawad in Gujarat sometime in the 1940s, Gangubai ran away from her home after secretly marrying her father's accountant, Ramnik Laal who encouraged her dreams of going to Mumbai.
The two eloped to Mumbai, but Ramnik unfortunately tricked her and sold her into prostitution for Rs 500.
Although she was starved and beaten relentlessly in the initial days, Gangubai rose through the ranks, and gradually ended up operating her own brothel.
She is also known to also have lobbied for the rights of commercial sex workers, writes The Indian Express.
She adopted the name Gangu as she started working in the commercial sex trade business.
As per Zaidi's account of Gangu, she was known to be under the protection of Mumbai mafia don Karim Lala. It is said that she even tied a rakhi on Karim Lala's wrist after he promised to protect her from one of his goons, who had raped Gangubai twice.
She also found connections with the local police thanks to Karim Lala. Soon after, Gangubai Kathewali (merger of the words 'kothewali' and Kathiawadi), as she was now known, also won the gharwali (brothel-keepers) elections.
When Gangubai Kathiawadi became the Mafia Queen of Kamathipura, she made sure that no female was forced into prostitution. She also helped all the sex workers to improve their life by providing them with a better life. And not just the sex workers, but she also worked in improving the conditions of orphans.
Zaidi in his book also explains the tale of a girl named Madhu, who, much like Ganga, was brought to Kamathipura under false pretences. The story opens with the local brothel keeper calling Gangubai to talk to Madhu, so she can get her in line. Instead, after talking to Madhu, Gangubai decides to let her go to her native place.
Gangubai's reputation rose after this incident, as it was seen that she valued women over money. Gangubai was also vocal about legalisation of prostitution in cities.
She was loved so much by the people of Kamathipura that a statue has also been installed there in her memory.
Even today, the people of Kamathipura remember her as their hero for everything she had done for them.
Gangubai reportedly passed away in the mid-'70s and did not have children of her own. There are however several individuals who claim they were adopted by her.