Gulaab Gang


Original Title: गुलाब गैंग
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Director: Soumik Sen
Screenplay by: Soumik Sen, Anubhav Sinha
Cast: Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Divya Jagdale, Priyanka Bose, Tannishtha Chatterjee

I was completely pumped [1] with the release of the first trailer, and then completely dismayed with the cold reception Gulaab Gang seemed to get from the press. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting it to break box office records because- DUH! Female-centric films with a certain social message don’t make money *coughMrityudand… — and let’s not even discuss the problems in trying to bring Wonder Woman to the screen — but certainly critics didn’t care for numbers, star power or bursting the bubbles of their first on-screen crushes, right? Boy, was I wrong.

I’m glad to say that my instinct wasn’t wrong. I really did enjoy the film — NO SUBTITLES and all. The movie being described as a ‘typical masala’ by some couldn’t be too difficult to get, right? The eternal battle between Good vs. Evil, politics- I’m game and good at it. It is because Gulaab Gang is a typical masala — Fight scenes. Check. Dance scenes. Check. Shoot-out. Check. Car chase… okay, so-so check. Holi celebration. Check. Hero and Villain- wait. Heroine and Villainess. Yes! It’s because this movie IS a typical masala film featuring two females that makes it extra awesome.

The film centers around a group of pink-sari-clad women who fight for social injustice, led by the fire-spirited Rajjo (Dixit), and her two second in command gals Sandhya (Bose) and Mahie (Jagdale), who on a fateful day ran into Kajri (Chatterjee) about to commit suicide. After a series of events that raise Rajjo’s public image, she crosses the path of running-for-office Sumitra Devi (Chawla) who will seize the opportunity to raise her own image with Rajjo’s popularity… or completely destroy her if she refuses.

Let’s start with the truth, because we can handle it- I did think Madhuri Dixit (and perhaps Juhi Chawla too) is a little bit too light-skinned for the role at hand (see who played Little Rajjo), but I’ve seen so much ridiculous casting in Indian movies that it’s easy to disregard the color of the skin. I’m a big fan of Tabu (rumored to have been attached as the lead early on), and though she might be a better fit physically, I don’t trust her with the type of ass-kicking that needed to be done here. Dixit was able to pull off most of the fight sequences to fist-pumping and near-cheering heights, despite some seldom wire-work that wasn’t too subtle. Her stoic and brooding nature wasn’t always consistent, which I’m blaming on the script, which compared to your typical masala means it’s very focused. No romance yo!

There was some really strong acting from all female supporting players especially from Jagdale who got to play the loud and rough Mahie, but the highlight of Gulaab Gang has to be the stand-off between Dixit and Chawla. How many times do you get to see an actor known for their sunshine chirpy personality turn that smirk into the prelude of breaking someone’s backbone, humiliating them by making them crawl in between someone’s legs. Chawla doesn’t come close to gleefully yell “That’s a Bingo!” but she comes close enough with her attitude making us want more of her bad side exploration in other films.

Contrary to popular belief, Dixit and Chawla don’t share many scenes together, but when they do- boy, it’s fun! Especially the very first time they meet following the impending punishment that the Shankar lad (Sudev Nair) is about to receive for taking advantage of a girl during his father’s campaign, with Rajjo waiting on Sumitra’s response to the rape. It’s in that scene when I finally stopped seeing Rajjo as a one-shade ‘hero’ and saw the confrontation between an anti-hero and the villain. Sadly, that tone doesn’t really stay throughout, and sensed that Dixit lost a bit of edge because director Soumik Sen wanted a ‘true hero’ at times.

Overall, though, I’ll watch it again… but this time with subtitles!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

— EDIT April 26th 2014 —

You can watch Gulaab Gang with subtitles on the Junglee Film Club YouTube Channel.

— EDIT April 28th 2014 —

Check out our interview with director Soumik Sen.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

14 Responses

  1. Soumik says:

    thank you for your words.

  2. Jenna says:

    Putting politics, and controversies aside – this film had so much going for it. Yes, it was a movie about women, and it has it’s feminist side to it, but deep down, it’s a powerful film. Because it doesn’t say that only women should be looked out for, it wants to spread the message that ALL of India deserves an education – rich, poor, boy or girl – they all need to be treated the same. And that’s what Rajjo was fighting for. You see it even in the end of the film – a continued battle to educate the people around her. I say kudos to Soumik Sen for creating a film that teaches girls to stay strong, and to seek the education and fair treatment they deserve, and to also encourage India to fight to destroy illiteracy in their country.

    BUT, I also have to congratulate him for putting two of the brightest stars in India back on the screen TOGETHER. It’s hard for women in film, even harder yet for slightly older, MARRIED women in India to find decent roles. I’ve been saying over and over again that India needs to embrace the age of their favorite actors and find fitting roles for them – Soumita does this perfectly. This movie wouldn’t have been as powerful with two male leads – plus it’s been done dozens of times. This was something new and refreshing. I love Juhi as the antagonist. Her sweet looks and usual bright disposition are a complete juxtaposition to her role as Sumitra. The lip curls, the eye bulging and the quiet menace are brilliantly acted. But let’s not leave Madhuri out! THOSE MOVES! And not just her perfect dance moves – but those fight scenes! She did so much of that kick-ass choreography herself – I was in awe! This movie is one for the personal DVD shelves for SURE.

    • amy says:

      @Jenna, did this change your opinion on Indian movie fighting scenes that made you laugh? I did think the fighting choreography (though exaggerated at times, like when Madhuri does a sweep to kick multiple guys and you can see her weight pulling the cables) was pretty well done. Both Divya Jagdale and Priyanka Bose did really well in them too.

      In terms of women roles in India- though I really REALLY liked English Vinglish and Sridevi is great fun, I feel -in my little heart- that Madhuri is trying to push harder film barriers. Whereas EV was a Sridevi full-on starrer and it was a hit, to me it was comfy. Shashi learns English, proofs her worth and goes back to her husband and family who have looked down on her. If it had been an American indie, Shashi would’ve divorced and it’d be a different movie. LOL Madhuri, on the other hand, has made a handful of female-oriented films that do have a sense of preachiness (considering the cultural background), and they’ve failed because they’re not comfy movies. Gaja Gamini, Mrityudand and Lajja come to mind (maybe these are the only ones, I dunno xD). I think GG falls into the zone, and people still don’t like it. I’d like to see Queen before I state that people aren’t ready for this kind of movie.

      • Jenna says:

        @amy, No, it hasn’t changed my mind about choreo in general – tho this one didn’t seem to go as far over the top so it was almost believable. And I think it would be refreshing if they continued this trend.

        English Vinglish WAS a good role, it did push boundaries a bit, and was very obviously centered on Sridevi but it was still SAFE. It didn’t break boundaries, it just kind of sidled up to them and then walked away. I think films like this – that show how strong women can be (not necessarily physically like the fight scenes) but mentally are needed in India. They HAVE been making strides, but just because a character is strong in a romance film that doesn’t change much – they need to be strong on their own. I hope that box office numbers don’t discourage filmmakers like Soumik Sen – these movies need to be made to slowly force Indian cinema into a new era of cinema. (and I still want to see Queen too! they had it playing – but skipped the Sunday I wanted to go! It was playing Saturday and Monday….but not Sunday. lol. wth?)

        • amy says:

          @Jenna, yeah. It’s one of my frustrations with Indian film- and I do love romances and musicals. But I’m kinda getting back to Jdrama from all this time watching Indian films, and the woman in that show has just finished sending off her three grown sons into marriage (how un-Indian) and her husband is worried about her Empty Nest syndrome. However, her character is all “FINALLY! I have fulfilled my duties as a mother, I can do what I have always wanted to do! Open a small restaurant!” It made me feel like it was so ground-breaking. LOL

          One of the mainstream characters that could have been better if it had not been centered around the romance that comes to mind is Deepika’s Cocktail. Her character has her own issues and she could’ve worked on her issues with girl friendship, but then they had to make it about Saif xD even if they gave us that scene of him in kinky drag. Did you get to see last year’s Best Actress roundtable? It’s an interesting one where they talked why Zoya couldn’t write a Zindagi movie with female characters instead. Then again, the WHOLE WORLD is like “Chick flicks. Yuck!” Sighs.

  3. Soumik says:

    thank you for such a lovely conversation thread ladies. It’s voices and thoughts like the ones posted that make us making films like GG worthwhile. Pushing boundaries is tough. Even more so when you are a debutant and saddled with an inept studio. I’d be glad to answer any points you may have. Also read this. Sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan’s take on the film.

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