Gangubai Kothewali was one of the most feared women in the Mumbai underworld. She used to run many brothels in Mumbai during the 60’s. She was popularly known as the Lady of Kamathipura.
Wikipedia/ Bio and career
Gangubai Kothewali was born Ganga Harjivandas into a prestigious family in Kathiawad, Gujarat. She wanted to become an actress since she was little. While in college, she fell in love with Ramnik Lal, her father’s accountant, and ran away with him from home. They had reportedly married each other. The duo then moved to Mumbai where her husband sold Gangubai as a prostitute for just Rs. 500. The harsh life of the Mumbai red light zone made her a tough woman. During that time, the infamous don, Karim Lala, used to rule a town in Mumbai. Kamathipura was also part of that locality. Once, one of Karim Lala’s thugs had raped Gangubai, after which she ran to Karim for justice and had even tied a Rakhi to Karim. Later, Gangubai, who fell victim to the prostitution trade, became one of Kamathipura’s most feared pimps during the 1960s. She piled up her craft in Kamathipura. Many famous mafias and gangsters from the underworld were his regulars. Despite being a feared lady, she had a soft corner for women sold for prostitution. She used to fight for those women and took care of them like a mother. One such incident includes his fight with one of the important members of a famous gang in Mumbai. He fought for a girl from his brothel who was allegedly raped by a gangster. Gangubai was the undisputed queen of the brothel business in Mumbai. Apparently, he never forced any girl into prostitution, instead, he used to work to improve conditions for sex workers and orphaned children.
Family, caste and boyfriend
Gangubai Kothwali belonged to a Gujarati family. Not much is known about his parents. At a young age, she flew out of her home with her boyfriend, Ramnik Lal, who first married her and eventually sold her as a prostitute.
- Gangubai was known for her efforts to achieve better living conditions in Kamathipura.
- He had connections to some of the most feared gangsters in Mumbai, as most of them were his regulars.
- She was the first woman to open brothel franchises in different cities in the country. He even sold drugs and gave murder orders.
- Gangubai once reached out to Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, to discuss the issues facing sex workers in his district. Nehru was reportedly quite impressed with his leadership qualities and clarity of thought.
- Apparently, Gangu had made a proposal to Nehru when Nehru asked him why he had gotten into the brothel business when he could have gotten a good job and a husband.
- Although Gangubai lived in the suburbs of Kamathipura, she was a rich lady. She was the only brothel lady, who owned a black Bentley in those days.
- Gangubai was reported to be the keeper of many gifts. She would give them shelter and even guide them when they needed it.
- Kothewali believed that if she had offered her body for the pleasure of other people, it did not mean that no one would have the right to abuse her or degrade her dignity.
- Gangubai’s good heart had won him many admirers. Even today, his idols and photo frames adorn many walls in Kamathipura.
- Gangubai also appears in one of the chapters of Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mafia Queens Of Mumbai”.
- In 2019, Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali decided to make a movie titled ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ based on the real life story of Gangubai. Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt has been offered the role of ‘Gangubai’ in the film.