Child reenacts Alia Bhatt's 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' scene, sparks online debate
Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt is gearing up for her next, Gangubai Kathiawadi, which releases on February 25, but one promotional effort is already inviting flak for the actor and the movie. Fans of the actor were seen dressing up as Bhatt in the movie and delivering her dialogues in "Gangu-style" online. One such clip went viral and ended up sparking a debate. Here's why.
In the video in question, a child—donning a white saree and a big red bindi like Bhatt wears in the Gangubai Kathiawadi trailer—was seen performing. While initially, the clip had garnered praises with netizens calling the child "Choti Alia," soon it ushered in criticism after Filmfare shared the clip on Twitter. Many felt this reenaction was not age-appropriate, given Gangubai was a sex worker.
Gangubai Kathiawadi was a brothel manager in the red light area of Kamathipura. This child, of course may not be aware of what she is being asked to portray, but am certain @filmfare and filmmakers do. In case they don’t, then @NCPCR_ should step in and help educate? https://t.co/f39VJN1p0b— Priyanka Chaturvedi🇮🇳 (@priyankac19) February 13, 2022
Complaints also came from filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who opined that the clip was "outright exploitation of innocent kids for vested interest." Facing backlash, Filmfare deleted the tweet, after which Agnihotri noted: "But deleting a tweet by @filmfare doesn't mean acknowledgment of mistake. It's simply done to avoid outrage." Although this particular clip gained maximum attention, several such recreation videos are already up online.
Meanwhile, lead actor Bhatt has been also sharing Instagram Reels of her fans delivering Gangubai dialogues on her Instagram Story, and many of these have been performed by kids. After the release of the song Dholida, the star started a trend of dancing on the hook step. This has also been recreated by several underage netizens with Bhatt sharing some of their clips.
Although a child should not be allowed to portray any crass adult theme or character, some of the reasons for backlash here are problematic. Many have been found to be criticizing a child essaying the role of a sex worker who went up the ladder to become an influential figure in Mumbai's underworld. But this stigmatization perpetuates the discriminatory social idea of sex work.
Only time will tell if the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directorial manages to de-stigmatize sex workers. Meanwhile, the film recently received a UA certificate and four modifications from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). It arrives in theaters on February 25.