Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Film Review: Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

Young Ganga (Alia Bhatt) wants to become an actress and in order to fulfill her dreams, she elopes with her boyfriend to Mumbai but in all excitement of such a young age, she never realizes the horror that awaits her. Her boyfriend sells her for Rs.1000 to a brothel and the broken Ganga becomes Gangu. And after earning a reputation amongst her fellow prostitutes, she becomes Gangubai.

This is a real-life story based on Gangubai Kothewali. She was the queen of the infamous prostitution-hub Kamathipura and did a lot for the prostitutes and orphans for decades. As expected, the film dramatized the true bond of respect between Gangubai and Karim Lala as in those times it was widely known that treat each other like siblings and no one would consider messing around with Gangubai when Lala was ruling the underworld.

I don’t have enough knowledge of Gangubai because this film is based on Hussain Zaidi‘s book, “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” and I didn’t read that. And at the start of the film, there is a disclaimer that confirms that liberty has been taken for cinematic appeal and entertainment despite being based on the book so I am not sure how many facts were changed.

And I have written many times on different platforms that Bollywood is still not ready for making bio dramas because of many reasons. And one of the reasons is that the Hindi films are generally produced for cashing from commercial business and do not provide enough facts to justify their case for being a bio-drama. Sadly, Gangubai Kathiawadi faces the same critical issue. And despite all the elements of impressions implemented for beautifying the film, Gangubai Kathiawadi is more sort of a mainstream entertainer rather than a genuine bio-drama.

One of the many problems of this film is the average direction. Sanjay Leela Bhansali never disappoints when it comes to visual artistry. He is someone who is fond of showing things in a beautiful way. Even if something is ugly, he will apply makeup on it to look a beautiful ugly.

Now observe the productional set in this film and I ask Mumbaikars here, is Mumbai’s oldest and the largest red-light district Kamathipura that beautiful as depicted in the film? And Bhansali throughout the film glorifies Gangubai as if she was some symbol of national heroism. In the final scene, after observing the celebration, I felt as if Gangubai won some presidential election in the United States.

And this is why Bhansali makes beautiful films to cover the overdramatic screenplay of ordinary storytelling that qualifies for Bollywood aesthetics. Just like his previous films, this film also gives the audience a feel of absolute noir-meet-broadway theatrical rhapsody. Superb costume and production designing. This film is zenith when it comes to technical brilliance besides two of the most important things this film lacks, and that are necessary for the making; writing and direction. All the technicalities aside, the film is below-par with many plotholes.

How come Shaukat doesn’t listen from the other door when Kamli loudly informs Gangu that Bilal has gone to inform Rahim about him? Not sure how Gangu recovered from brutal injuries after Shaukat beat her. Did the time period jump? But how far has the time passed? Not a single facial scar or a scratch! How perfectly a heavy makeup can hide the gashes? She looked exactly like she was before beaten.

One of the plusses of this film is a bunch of supporting performances coming from some well-known actors in their brief roles like Seema Pahwa, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz, and Ajay Devgn. Vijay Raaz as transwoman Raziabai was all about his characterization and he did a fair job. I am surprised many are furious over Vijay Raaz’s and are questioning why a transgender was not picked? Not sure how is this a problem now. It is not mandatory that the role of a trans must have to go to a real-life trans. Otherwise, what is the beauty of judging the actor’s performance at all? How often do the trans people get offers to play the role of non-trans or non-LGBTQ roles? This is a nonsense controversy. 

Speaking of Ajay Devgn’s extended cameo playing the role of Rahim Lala that is based on one of the three biggest Mumbai dons of that time, Karim Lala. See, I don’t like Ajay Devgn’s acting, I love his acting. And he has played character roles and has had many great performances in the past. But here I blame Bhansali over the selection because, in my opinion, this has to be the worst ever portrayal of Karim Lala. First thing, Ajay doesn’t remind me of Lala nor does he has a typical Afghani Pashto accent. Lala was pretty tall, in Hussain Zaidi’s book and in some internet sources, Lala is thought to be around 7-feet tall; Ajay is hardly 6-feet. 

Ajay’s role doesn’t remind me of Karim Lala but Ajay himself. He literally did nothing different to stay in the character. I am sure many will notice that Ajay’s this performance was exactly similar to his role of Mallik in Company. And that makes me realize something. What’s up with Ajay playing the roles of some infamous mafia dons? His Company’s role was based on Chhota Rajan. In Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, his don role was based on Haji Mastan. And now Karim Lala. Who is he playing in the future? Vardhabhai?

Coming back to the point before I slip writing other than review, there are plus points too. The film successfully addressed the social issue of the prostitutes and dramatized in a way that despite all the charms and merriness they used in their makeup to perform hanging on the doors and street, they were all bunch of eternal sadists with tragic origin stories. Gangu helped many of those unfortunate cases and the film showed that those damsels in distress were re-purchased by Gangu for a hefty amount to provide them a better life. No wonder how many such stories circulated on those streets of Kamathipura.

Before I end my review, I will definitely write about the biggest plus and the most impressive factor of the film, Alia Bhatt. This was a much-needed moment in Alia’s career since she became one of the biggest victims of nepotism charges from the global netizens after Sushant Singh Rajput‘s suicide. A kind of role that challenges her to come back and prove how her body language can perfectly construct her role. There was everything to praise about Alia’s Gangu. Of course, the film revolves around Gangu but maybe the spirit would have diminished if this wasn’t for Alia. 

I have no idea what the real Gangu looked like when she was young as there is not much about her on the internet. The information about her and even her pictures are extremely finite. But Alia gave a splendid performance. And there are a few scenes where one can judge how impressively Alia executed reactions and mannerisms.

What a magnificent scene that was when rookie Gangu stands at the door and others give her tips for seducing customers. Bhansali shot that scene with quite a thought. And Alia perfected the physical behavior of an amateur harlot. In the ‘Dholida‘ track, she has a one-minute one-shot scene of enraging her dance while other women react blankly and she executes her madness so well. There is another scene where she speaks to her mom and the line is about to cut in thirty seconds and Gangu loses her temper. Some incredible portrayal of desperation was performed there. In Gangu’s first scene at the brothel, when she gets deceived and locked; I think Alia has perfected such a scenario after similar acts in Highway and Udta Punjab.

Gangubai Kathiawadi for me is a disappointment in direction and storytelling. Its technical aspects and Alia’s mindblowing performance makes this ordinary film look extraordinary.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: Badhaai Do (2022)

Police officer Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and physical education teacher Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar) are homosexuals. They are fed up with their families who pressurize them to marry someone. Shardul and Sumi happen to meet somehow and after knowing their sexual orientation, they decide to marry to silence their concerns. But the matters get worse and they keep hiding from their families.

Badhaai Do is considered a ghost sequel to Badhaai Ho so a sexual issue is addressed to ‘perhaps’ continue the series and commercialize the awareness. Two factors play important role in such an impressive story. One, South Asian families are too demanding to their young ones and strictly make their life decisions and believe they are right and the young ones are opposite. Why their wishes and ambitions are never asked? Why their future is decided by the elders? Only they can explain this but this matter is wonderfully exaggerated in Badhaai Do. Two, the existence of homosexuality is almost impossible to express for the LGBTQ community, and unfortunately have to lie all their lives to avoid any social havoc. Because of their being homos, the balance of life hangs around whether the family and society will accept them or not. And this also is brilliantly picturized in the film.

If these two central characters are played by Rajkummar and Bhumi, more than half of the film is guaranteed either commercial success or acceptance by the general public. These actors along with Ayushmann Khurrana have successfully addressed social issues existing in India that need the audience’s attention.

Badhaai Do is quite a lengthy film for the subject. Because the story didn’t have enough detailing to make it to 147 minutes. Around half an hour is spent on the songs out of nowhere. Besides the tracks, a lot of the film’s screenplay is written about Shardul and Sumi struggling to escape from the whys and hows of their marriage.

The film got serious after over a hundred minutes and addressed the issue. And at this point, I detected that the screentime would have easily been reduced. There were many instances where they would have been exposed.

In the last few years, the makers have raised a lot of social issues. They even start on a promising note but the plot is lost in the middle and ends either abruptly with no technical conclusion or is very predictable. And that is the same problem with this film. The hatred of family about homosexuality turns into accepting their choices so abnormally. Absolutely no consequences on the homos from the elders. Maybe the elders are aware that the film is finishing so let us just drop our egos and embrace them.  

The director had his best chance to finish the film at the LGBTQ rally on the highway with Shardul wearing that mask and smiling at his friends. Anyway, the performances are first-rate. Both Rajkummar and Bhumi were excellent. Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chaddha are superb but I am afraid they are getting typecasted, especially Seema Pahwa. Most of the time she shows up in the film, Seema will be stuck in similar roles.

Badhaai Do deserves praise for raising such a sensitive issue.

RATINGS: 7/10

TV Review: The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is a significant period in American history that began in the 1870s and lasted until the 1890s. This period is considered the golden age of industrialization and rapid growth in the American economy. This era witnessed the birth of many business giants, important inventions, and the rise of many wealthiest families. This was also the period of the shifting of wealthy generations where the old and new families were struggling to join the rank of elites and high societies. Julian Fellowes‘ latest creation is based on that struggle.

The HBO drama focuses on two rich families. The old money van Rhijn-Brook family and the new money Russell family. The latter is inspired by the real-life Vanderbilts who once were the-then wealthiest family in the United States. A sense of rivalry exists when the race of joining the elite ignites within the society and during all this hullabaloo, young Marian Brook became a lively figure between the two families when she moves from Pennsylvania to New York to live with her estranged aunts.

As true to the aristocratic nature and Julian Fellowes accurately admitting, The Gilded Age is the American Downton Abbey or shall I say, the American answer to Downton Abbey that was also created by Fellowes. Not sure if I must suggest that the dramas written by Fellowes are for rich people but there is no harm in developing an interest in dramas about the noble or upper-class lifestyle that proudly displays a fine exhibition of the aristocracy.

The show has taken good care of small accuracies and being a period drama, the costume and the production design are just marvelous. There is a scene, I think in the pilot or the second episode when the party host announces that she will organize a card game of Cinch. I found the name interesting so I googled it and I discovered that Cinch, which is also known as High Five, was the game that developed in Denver, Colorado in the same timeline where this drama is shot.

Downton Abbey fans are in for a treat as the music score, powerful dialogues and direction reminds you of the Downton Abbey show. Not only that, many characters of The Gilded Age will make the audience recall some Downton Abbey characters. The biggest one is Lady Agnes van Rhijn whose quick-witted one-liners will make you remember Lady Violet in Downton Abbey. Then there is Mr. Bannister, the butler who holds the same commands as Mr. Carson. The young chemistry of Jack and Bridget in the servant class is similar to Daisy and Alfred in Downton Abbey.

But one aspect where The Gilded Age edges over Downton Abbey is the representation of the Blacks. Downton Abbey have extremely shorter and limited roles but The Gilded Age has quite a take on the lives of African Americans. And their representation is the most different from most of the shows that are doing a favor to diversity. The show is giving its audience a sharp look at the certain existence of ‘elite’ African Americans which is quite disappearing from the script pages when we watch a historical drama where the Black Americans are mostly portrayed as slaves. One guarantee of trusting the Black representation is accurate is hiring Erica Armstrong Dunbar who is a Rutgers University history professor who specializes in Black American women of the 18th and 19th centuries, as a historical consultant.

The audience must also remember that this show is taking place in New York in 1882 which is around 17 years after Lincoln‘s historic Emancipation Proclamation, the ratification of the US constitution’s 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. So yes, the presentation is accurate, and more than that, the show still threw the shades of racial segregation and portrayed them as some second-grade citizens. Because this was still a fresh struggle for recognition.

Lady Agnes’ son Oscar is shown as bisexual and the flow of the characterization clearly proved that making him bisexual looked terribly forced. His being in relation to John has nothing to do with the story but just wanted the audience to recognize that LGBTQ+ existed in those times. And forced portrayals have this very problem in the films and tv shows that the writing and the direction of such chemistries do not come up with some genuine addressing.

Many of the cast have given fair performances but I will pick both the leading ladies Christine Baranski and Carrie Coon as Lady Agnes and Bertha Russell who gave top performances. Stage actress Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep‘s daughter, was first-rate and will take time to learn a lot since this is the beginning of her career. She made a television debut in such a bigger project.

Just like Downton Abbey, the show will be covering a lot of historical events and present portrayals of famous American people like the first season managed to do on a few occasions. For example, Linda Emond as Clara Barton who was the founder of the American Red Cross, and Ashlie Atkinson as Mamie Fish who was a lavish party-throwing socialite. There is a scene where Thomas Edison lights up the New York Times building, a historic moment in New York city’s history that is a real incident with few
changes for the dramatic effect. It was a mesmerizing shot to end one of the episodes and give the real incident its due respect to define the best moments of the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age is a spectacular portrayal of elite American history. Those who are enthusiastic about period dramas will surely love watching this. I am believing that The Gilded Age is definitely increasing its fanbase, especially amongst the Downton Abbey loyalists. The story has a lot of potential to stretch the drama to at least five seasons.

TV Review: The Golden Girls

Four old women, Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur), her 80yo mother Sophia (Estelle Getty), Rose (Betty White), and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) live together in Miami and become fast friends for years. During this time, these girls come across many incidents, relationships, women issues, and funny events. It is an unbreakable bond that keeps you entertain.

The Golden Girls was one of the earliest sitcoms that was majorly or fully based on women. A show that was run by an all-female lead cast back in the 1980s was a bold move for any producer in those times. We as the audience hardly remember such sitcoms where the female lead ran the business in the right direction. A few ‘female’ sitcoms that I remember to be released before The Golden Girls were Maude, The Facts of Life, The Mary Tyle Moore Show, and Laverne & Shirley. But the distinction The Golden Girls had was that the show was genuinely run by the four leading women. None of the male cast of the show had any capacity of a potential supporting character. Besides a few, mostly showed up in special appearances in one or a couple of episodes.

THE GOLDEN GIRLS — “One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest: Part 1 & 2” Episode 05/09/1992 — Pictured: (l-r) Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo; Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak; Betty White as Rose Nylund; Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux– Photo by: Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

And the four golden girls were all talented artists. Rue had Maude and Mama’s Family in her credits and Estelle made her name in the theaters and got recognition from this show. Betty White was already a tv legend and Beatrice Arthur was an immensely popular feminist actress in theater and television. It was magic when they appeared together. The formula of their presence and collective comic timing worked thanks to solid writing throughout seven seasons and 180 episodes. It was not only a sitcom as a source of guffaws but also an opportunity to raise any concerns that women felt an obstacle in their walks of life like the elders facing the upstart generation, the status of a homosexual in the society, being overweight, choosing a career at an old age and facing the challenges, and many more.

The writing and performances in The Golden Girls are the heart and soul. The writers had so much to talk about and would construct a well-timed comic line. Each of the four leading characters carried weight and were tough on each other. You cannot say that Sophia was the show stealer for her being a tough Sicilian mother and getting the best jokes from the others. The others played prominent roles as well. Sophia’s daughter Dorothy, a school teacher, had the command in the house. Horny Blanche was obsessed with men and slept with many dozens of them. Swedish immigrant Rose was the group’s dumbest individual who just couldn’t get the point in the conversation and believe anything she is told.

I must mention how strange the chemistry of the Petrillo mother and daughter was. Estelle Getty who played mother Sophia was actually a year younger than Dorothy actress Beatrice Arthur. It was such an impressive make-up that used to take three hours to shape her into the character. But what an enjoyable character that turned out to be.

The Golden Girls has a loyal following within the LGBTQ community. That is because of the story arcs that brought gay characters to highlight their distinction. The sitcom was one of the first to tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS. All four leading actresses were gay supporters.

Legendary celebrities like Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Julio Iglesias, Sonny Bono, and Burt Reynolds appeared as guests in the sitcom that guaranteed the audience sticking to their television.

Here is one shocking FUN FACT! The-then unknown extra Quentin Tarantino impersonated Elvis Presley in one of the episodes, Sophia’s Wedding. That episode was so popular that the residual checks that Tarantino earned by its repeated airing helped him in the making of his debut film, Reservoir Dogs.

Not to forget, George Clooney showed up in one episode for a small role. He wanted a part in the show so he can qualify for his union medical insurance.

It has been almost three decades to this sitcom and as much as the voice of feminism has met its global recognition now, The Golden Girls represents the true nature of liberty and advocates the rights of women and their rank in society. This sitcom with four old ladies met huge success in the decade that was dominated by The Cosby Show, Married With Children, and Cheers. The popularity of the sitcom can be judged this way that the final episode of the show in 1992 was watched by 27.2 million people. The show is recommended to those who are willing to watch a comedy with a different plot and content.

My favorite episodes of The Golden Girls:
S01 – E02 – Guess Who’s Coming to the Wedding?
S01 – E03 – Rose The Prude
S01 – E04 – Transplant
S01 – E20 – Adult Education
S01 – E23 – Blind Ambitions
S02 – E01 – End of the Curse
S02 – E02 – Ladies of the Evening
S02 – E06 – Big Daddy’s Little Lady
S02 – E09 – Joust Between Friends
S02 – E23 – Son-In-law Dearest
S03 – E01 – Old Friends
S03 – E10 – The Audit
S03 – E14 – Blanche’s Little Girl
S03 – E23 – Mixed Belonging
S04 – E06 – Sophia’s Wedding (1)
S04 – E07 – Sophia’s Wedding (2)
S04 – E10 – Stan Takes a Wife
S04 – E17 – You Gotta Have Hope
S04 – E19 – Till Death Do We Volley
S04 – E21 – Little Sister
S05 – E03 – The Accurate Conception
S05 – E04 – Rose Fights Back
S05 – E11 – Edd Tide
S05 – E16 – Clinton Avenue Memoirs
S05 – E18 – An Illegitimate Concern
S06 – E06 – Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy
S06 – E09 – Mrs. George Devereaux
S06 – E12 – Ebbtide’s Revenge
S06 – E14 – Sisters of the Bride
S06 – E19 – Melodrama
S06 – E23 – Love for Sale
S07 – E03 – Beauty and the Beast
S07 – E04 – That’s For Me to Know
S07 – E11 – Room 7
S07 – E15 – Goodbye Mr. Gordon
S07 – E16 – The Commitments
S07 – E19 – Journey to the Center of Attention
S07 – E22 – Rose: Portrait of a Woman
S07 – E23 – Home Again, Rose (1)
S07 – E24 – Home Again, Rose (2)
S07 – E25 – One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest (1)
S07 – E26 – One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest (2)