Will Shraddha Kapoor's turn in Haseena: The Queen of Mumbai prove to be the role of a lifetime?

Gautam Chintamani

April 18, 2017 12:00:45 IST

The first look of the film Haseena: The Queen Of Mumbai suggests that Shraddha Kapoor has decided to take a cue from scores of actors who usually 'get real' to be taken seriously. In the film directed by Apoorva Lakhia, Shraddha sheds her urban girl-next-door image to portray Haseena Parkar, the real-life sister of the dreaded gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

Many of Kapoor’s contemporaries have already played a real-life or ‘more-real-than-what-Bollywood-would-usually-offer’ kind of character and even garnered immense critical acclaim. In a single year, Shraddha’s contemporaries such as Alia Bhatt, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte, Taapsee Pannu and Swara Bhaskar featured in Udta Punjab (2016), Neerja, Phobia (2016), Pink (2016) and Nil Battey Sanata (2016) that have practically ushered in a new phase for the heroine in popular Hindi cinema. In between a Queen (2013), which set the bar for the female lead in contemporary Bollywood and Udta Punjab or a Neerja, or even an Akira (2016) and this year’s Naam Shabana (2017) and Aanarkali Arahwali (2017), the two releases that Shraddha has had are still stuck in the cosmos of ‘old’ Bollywood. Both Baaghi (2016) and Rock On 2 (2016) have precious little to offer in terms of depth or range for the female lead and in that aspect, Kapoor’s foray into playing a real life character who was once referred to as the ‘Godmother of Nagpada’ is sure to offer the young actor a chance to shift gears.

Shraddha Kapoor in the first look of 'Haseena'

Shraddha Kapoor in the first look of 'Haseena'

Films based on real life gangsters have been almost a rite of passage for the leading men in Bollywood. Right from Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar (1975), a character that was said to inspired by Haji Mastan to Vinod Khanna in Dayavan (1988) that was a remake of Nayakan (1987) that was loosely based on Varadarajan Mudaliar to Ajay Devgn and Vivek Oberoi transforming into Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan respectively in Company (2002) to Emraan Hashmi and Akshay Kumar becoming Dawood in Once Upon A Time in Mubmbaai (2010) and Once Upon Ay Time in Mubmbaii Dobara (2013), etc. Shah Rukh Khan's Raees is a recent case in point.

But the number is very low when it comes to women playing real-life gangsters or criminals and the first example that pops up is Shabana Azmi in Godmother (1999). Supposedly inspired by the life of Santokben Jadeja, who ran the mafia operations of Porbandar, Gujarat, in the late 1980s and early 1990s and later turned politician, Godmother fetched Azmi a National Award for Best Actress. Besides Godmother, Seema Biswas as Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen (1994) is the only other popular instance of a film based on a real-life woman criminal in the recent past and from the looks of it, Haseena has already generated enough curiosity to be counted amongst these two.

There have been many films on Dawood Ibrahim and the entire spectrum from biopic (D – Underworld Badshah [2005], Risk [2007]) to popular (Company, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbaii Dobaara), factual (Black Friday [2004], Shootout at Wadala [2013] and even fantasy (D-Day [2013], Coffee with D [2017]) has been covered. The genre, as well as the character, both have captured Hindi film’s imagination for decades and it was only a matter of time before the focus shifted on to those close to the gangster. Lakhia had previously made Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007) that showed the real-life criminal Maya Dolas (Vivek Oberoi) going out in a rather cinematic blaze of glory and now returns to the genre with the story of Dawood’s sister, Haseena. He has also cast Shraddha’s real life brother, Siddhant Kapoor, to play her reel brother Dawood in the film and although Haseena died following a heart attack in 2014, many still readily recall her. Like Dawood, Haseena’s life, too, is just the kind of fable that Hindi cinema would devour and it is hardly surprising then that the lady who oversaw Dawood’s illegal operations in India through the hawala network and had to sign a daily muster at the Nagpada police station is already being seen as the underworld equivalent of ‘Mother India’.

Irrespective of the stance that Lakhia takes to tell the story of Haseena Parkar one thing about the film is certain – it undoubtedly will be the role of a lifetime for Shraddha Kapoor. But more importantly, it could fill the gap between a Bandit Queen or Godmother and the abysmal Revolver Rani (2014; the only other film that had a woman lead on similar lines).

The one film that showed enough promise to bridge the gap was Lalit Marathe’s Shabri (2011), a tenacious rendering of the Mumbai underworld’s first woman gangster. Written by Marathe, the film was a fictional account of Shabri (Ishaa Koppikar), a woman from a Mumbai slum who ends up shaking the biggest corridors of the matka underworld. Had the film’s release not been delayed by five years it would have had a different destiny considering the film’s producer Ram Gopal Varma labeled it far superior to his own Satya (1998).

The jury on Haseena: The Queen of Mumbai is still out in spite of the praise that Shraddha’s look has garnered. One will have to wait for the film rather than go by the late Haseena’s children's verdict — who, when they visited the sets, not only ‘approved’ of Shraddha as their mother but also “fell in love with the way the film was being shot.”

Updated Date: Apr 18, 2017 12:00 PM