Gangubai Kothewali was one of the most dreaded women of Mumbai’s underworld. She used to run many brothels in Mumbai during the 60s. She was popularly known as the ‘Madam of Kamathipura’ The New Indian Express.
Wiki/Biography & Career
Gangubai Kothewali was born in 1939 as Ganga Harjivandas India TV into a prestigious family in Kathiawad, Gujarat. She wanted to become an actress since childhood. While in college, she fell in love with Ramnik Lal, her father’s accountant, and ran away with him from her home. Reportedly, they had tied the knot with each other. The duo then relocated to Mumbai where Gangubai was sold into prostitution by her husband for just Rs. 500. India TV The hard life of Mumbai’s red-light area turned her into a tough lady. During that era, the infamous don, Karim Lala, used to rule a locality in Mumbai. Kamathipura was also a part of that locality. Once, one of the goons of Karim Lala had raped Gangubai after which she rushed to Karim for justice and had even tied a Rakhi to Karim. Later, Gangubai, who was herself a victim of the prostitution trade, went on to become one of the most dreaded pimps of Kamathipura during the 60s. She piled her trade in Hera Mandi red-light district and owned a brothel in Kamathipura. Many famous underworld mafias and gangsters were her regular clients. Despite being a dreaded lady, she had a soft corner for women who were sold into prostitution. She used to fight for such women and cared for them like a mother. One such incident includes her fight with one of the significant members of a famous gang in Mumbai. She fought for a girl from her brothel who was allegedly raped by a gangster. Gangubai was the undisputed queen of the brothel business in Mumbai. Apparently, she never forced any girl into prostitution, instead, she used to work for improving the conditions of the sex workers and Orphan kids.
Family, Caste & Boyfriend
Gangubai Kothwali belonged to a Gujarati Family. Not much is known about her parents. At an early age, she flew away from her home with her boyfriend, Ramnik Lal, who first got married to her and ultimately sold her into prostitution. She had adopted four children. One of her son’s name is Babu Rawji Shah.
- Gangubai was well-known for her efforts to bring about better living conditions in Kamathipura.
- She had connections with some of the most dreaded gangsters in Mumbai as most of them were her regular clients.
- She was the first woman to open franchise brothels in different cities of the country. She even peddled drugs and gave orders for murders.
- Gangubai once approached Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then-Prime Minister of India, to discuss the problems faced by the sex workers in her district. Reportedly, Nehru was quite impressed with her leadership qualities and clarity of thoughts.
- Apparently, Gangu had thrown a proposal at Nehru when Nehru asked her why she had got into the brothel business when she could have got a good job and a husband.
- Although Gangubai lived in the slums of Kamathipura, she was a rich lady. She was the only brothel madam, who owned a black Bentley in those days.
- Gangubai was reported to be the guardian of many dons. She would give them shelter and even provided guidance to them whenever needed.
- Kothewali believed that if she had offered her body for other people’s pleasure, it didn’t mean that anybody would get a right to abuse her or downgrade her dignity.
- Gangubai’s kind heart had won her many admirers. Even today her idols and photo frames adorn many walls in Kamathipura.
- Gangubai is also featured in one of the chapters of Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mafia Queens Of Mumbai.”
- In 2019, the Bollywood director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, decided to make a film titled ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ based on the real-life story of Gangubai. The Bollywood actress, Alia Bhatt, has been offered the role of ‘Gangubai’ in the film. The film was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID-19 lockdown in India. It is now set to release on 30 July 2021.
- Alia Bhatt was not the first choice for the film, the role was first offered to Priyanka Chopra who could not take up the project due to date clashes with her another film. It was then offered to Rani Mukerji who declined the offer.
- In April 2021, a criminal case was registered against the actress Alia Bhatt, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and writer Hussain Zaidi by Gangubai’s adopted son, Babuji Rawji Shah. The Indian Express