Gulab Gang: A casting coup and controversy

Contributed by - Our Bureau
The Gulab Gang (left) and the Gulabi Gang
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The drama started last week as producers of Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla-starrer Gulaab Gang moved a larger bench of Delhi HC against order staying release of the movie.

Sampat Pal, the leader of the original ‘Gulabi Gang’ of Bundelkhand, had filed a case saying that problem is with the fact that the film’s makers have not sought her permission to make the film.

Sampat Pal moved the HC seeking restraining order on the release of Gulaab Gang, saying the filmmakers did not take her permission before making the movie, which shows her in bad light. She alleged that the actress playing her character was shown in a bad light in the promos of the film, which will thus affect her reputation.

She also contended that the film’s promos depict her as an anti-social element, contrary to her real life image. The nationwide release of Madhuri Dixit- Juhi Chawla starrer Gulab Gang, slated to hit theatres this Friday, was derailed for nearly nine weeks with the Delhi High Court ordering stay on its screening on a plea of activist Sampat Pal who claims the film is based on her group Gulabi Gang, comprising women vigilantes in UP wearing pink sarees.

But the Delhi high court on last Thursday cleared the nationwide release of Gulaab Gang. A bench of acting chief justice BD Ahmed and justice S Mridul vacated the suspension granted by a single judge bench of the high court on Wednesday on the movie’s release. The move came as a blow to Pal, who is also facing revolt in her outfit for supporting the Congress in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

She stood on a Congress ticket from the Manikpur constituency in Chitrakoot district in the 2012 UP assembly polls. But the filmmakers of Gulaab Gang assured the bench that they will run a disclaimer that the movie is not based on the life of Sampat Pal and her work. Directed by debutant Soumik Sen, the film has been produced by Anubhav Sinha. For Soumik Sen, the inspiration for Gulaab Gang came not from Sampat Pal and her pinkclad female crusaders called ‘Gulabi Gang’, but from the film Mirch Masala. Earlier, Sampat Pal had only threatened to move the court pertaining to his film’s release.

When asked regarding the obvious resemblance to the pink brigade, Soumik said, “I have never said that my movie is based on the ‘Gulabi Gang’. Yes, my actors also sport pink, hence the name, but Madhuri Dixit is not playing Sampat Pal. If it’s the name ‘Gulaab’ that seems to be creating confusion, I would like to ask if you have heard of Gulab bai from Bihar. She sings songs, just like Madhuri does in the film, to inspire the masses. Madhuri is playing Rajjo, a crusader for the education of the girl child.

She strives to create an educated, economically-independent community of women, who can then become individuals who exercise their rights,” he says, defending his film vehemently. Controversy aside, Soumik has managed a casting coup by getting both Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit to act in the same film, and pitted against one another too. Speaking of Madhuri, he says, “I see Madhuri as a superhero; she can act, she can dance, she knows action. And this role required a super heroine. Rajjo can do everything; almost nothing short of flying around! She is a very dynamic personality. We got her to put on an ‘R’ (in Hindi) as her bindi. Madhuri was the only person who could’ve carried this role on her shoulders.”