The Bombay High Court, on Wednesday, confirmed the stay on the defamation proceedings against the makers of Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and produced under his Bhansali Productions.
The court stayed the proceedings as the person who filed the case was unable to prove he was Gangubai’s adopted son. The stay will remain in effect until orders are passed in the petition filed by the film’s makers to quash the case.
Earlier in August, another bench at the Bombay High Court had also temporarily stayed the proceedings in the case due to lack of evidence.
Gangubai Kathiawadi is an upcoming Hindi biographical crime drama that is loosely based on one of the chapters in Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges’ book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, a collection of stories about women who were part of Mumbai’s underworld. Bhatt plays Gangubai Kathiawadi, who was one of the most influential women in Kamathipura, a red-light district in Mumbai, and the owner of many brothels in the area.
Following the release of the film’s teaser in February, Babuji Shah, who claims to be Gangubai’s adopted son, had approached the Metropolitan Magistrate Court opposing her portrayal as a prostitute, brothel keeper and mafia queen in the film as well as the book, with a special objection to a scene featuring Gangubai smoking bidi.
A criminal defamation complaint was filed by Shah under IPC sections 499 (defaming a person or publishing content with the intention to harm them), 500 (punishment for defamation), and 502 (sale of defamatory content). The complainant had submitted that the chapter on Gangubai Kathiawadi in the novel is defamatory in nature, has tarnished her reputation, and infringed upon his deceased mother’s right to privacy and self-respect.
The makers of Gangubai Kathiawadi argued on Wednesday that the contents of the film and the promotional materials released are not defamatory. They further pointed out that the film is based on a book published in 2011, against which no action was taken alleging defamation until 2020.
They also argued that there cannot be any intention to defame Shah since neither the novel nor the film mention anything about an ‘adopted’ son and the makers did not even know of his existence till the complaint.
Following this, Justice Shinde, who was presiding over the case, asked Shah’s counsel to show proof of his adoption. Shah submitted his ration card, which did not satisfy the court, nor was his counsel able to specify the exact date of his adoption. This being the case, the court confirmed the stay on the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Gangubai Kathiawadi is slated for theatrical release on January 6, 2022.