In a criminal defamation suit filed in connection with the film Gangubai Kathiawadi, the Bombay High Court granted an interim stay on proceedings launched by a municipal court against actor Alia Bhatt and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The HC granted an interim stay until the next hearing date on September 7 in an order issued on August 10.

On a defamation case made by one Babuji Shah, who claimed to be the adoptive son of Gangubai Kathiawadi, on whom the film is based, a metropolitan magistrate issued summonses against Bhat, Bhansali, and his production company Bhansali Productions Private Limited in March this year.

Alia Bhatt plays Gangubai, one of the most powerful, loved, and revered madams in Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light district, in the 1960s.

Babuji Shah claimed that the film was inspired by the novel “The Mafia Queens of Mumbai.” Some parts of the work, according to Shah, were defamatory, tainted Gangubai Kathiawadi’s reputation, and violated her right to privacy. Senior counsel Aabad Ponda, representing Bhat, Bhansali, and his company, maintained that they were unaware of Shah’s existence.

On August 10, Justice Revati Mohite Dere issued a notice to Shah and scheduled a hearing for the application filed by Bhat and Bhansali on September 7. The court said, in the meanwhile, the proceeding before the trial court, qua (with respect to) the applicants, is delayed until the next date. Another HC bench, in a related move, refused to grant a stay on the film’s distribution.

Shah had petitioned the High Court for a stay on the film’s distribution as well as an injunction prohibiting the novel’s writers/publishers from creating any third-party rights or publishing any other tale about Gangubai Kathiawadi’s life.

In an order issued on July 30, Justice Nitin Sambre dismissed the application, stating that any defamatory content expires with the death of the individual who created it. Justice Sambre stated, It is incumbent upon the appellant (Shah) to establish that he is the adopted son of dead Gangubai Kathiawadi, which he has prima facie failed to accomplish.

The film was supposed to be out in September 2020; however, it was postponed owing to the COVID-19 epidemic. The film’s producers confirmed earlier this year that it will be released in theatres in 2021.

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