Oscars 2023: 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' and Alia Bhatt Were Snubbed

Gangubai Kathiawadi Alia Bhatt Pen Marudhar Entertainment
Pen Marudhar Entertainment

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s heartbreaking and magnificently stirring opus, “Gangubai Kathiawadi,” was the best movie of 2022. So, why are the 2022 Oscars -- the self-proclaimed pinnacle of international film acknowledgment -- coming and going without nominating it or its star, Alia Bhatt? The lack of major awards recognition for “Gangubai Kathiawadi” is one of the most infuriating snubs in recent years.

There has been no high-level outcry from mainstream news about “Gangubai Kathiawadi” being ignored. Therefore, rendering the chances of someone hearing about this spectacular drama through controversy improbable. The media’s lack of knowledge about the film is not for a lack of exposure. The biopic has been streaming on Netflix for quite a while (since April 2022), and it stars the deservedly mega-popular actress Alia Bhatt.

Last year proved to be a big one for Bhatt. She starred in the Netflix original movie, “Darlings,” released in August 2022, and the 2022 Golden Globe winner, “RRR,” also streaming on Netflix. A far different genre beat from those films, “Gangubai Kathiawadi” is a true drama with all it entails.

What It Is About

The perfectly paced two-and-half-hour drama is an Indian Hindi-language film loosely based on the real-life of Gangubai Kathiawadi. Young, in love, with big dreams in her heart and stars in her eyes, Gangubai (then Ganga) elopes with her boyfriend. Her life will never be the same.

Betrayed and sold to a madame by the boy she loves, Gangubai is forced to work against her will -- her fate changed forever. While potentially triggering (there is violence against women) and grim, the subject matter is informative, unflinching, and powerful. Few movies have brought this viewer to tears in recent years. Alia Bhatt’s marvelously performed and poignantly scripted monologues did just that.

The Star

The Gangubai viewers meet in the movie’s opening minutes is a woman who carries herself with the dignity of a warrior queen. As it traces Gangubai’s tragic journey, Alia Bhatt’s watershed performance captures the innocence of Gangubai’s youth and the determination of her adulthood. Bhatt deserved to be nominated, if not win, the Best Actress Oscar this year.

As crafted by Alia Bhatt, every eye movement, brow raise, hand gesture, and finger flick has a deliberate meaning. It is a nuanced performance on a scale that is hers alone. Bhatt is one of the brightest stars on the international stage, and I cannot wait to see her continue shining as her career unfolds.

The Movie

“Gangubai Kathiawadi” is also in the rare category of being more than a movie. Co-written by its director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Utkarshini Vashishtha, the script works to humanize some of humanity’s most long-derided members: sex workers. In one of her many moving speeches, Gangubai brilliantly questions society’s prejudice. Watch the clip below and tell me that this film did not deserve major awards recognition:

(Gives standing ovation in my living room.) I find it interesting that the Oscars are supposed to politically embrace everything this movie stands for, yet it denies its existence. Why? Regardless of the answer, the Oscars have lost their stranglehold on society’s ability to know about great films. Watercoolers have been exchanged for social media, and there are countless places for curious minds to discover what they need to see.

Final Thoughts

The Oscars ignoring “Gangubai Kathiawadi” (full list of nods by WSJ are here) does not change the fact that it is the best movie of 2022 and, quite frankly, one of the best of all time. It means those who saw and were moved by it may need to ensure we do our part to spread the word. “Gangubai Kathiawadi” is currently streaming on Netflix.