Gulaab Gang Controversy
The upcoming Madhuri Dixit starrer Gulaab Gang, whose release was stalled recently by the Delhi High Court, has been at the centre of a dispute between the film’s makers and activist Sampat Pal Devi, who formed the real-life women’s vigilante group referred to as the Gulabi Gang. According to Devi, the film is based on her life and, apart from portraying her negatively, the film’s makers did not seek her consent for the project. The director of the film, Soumik Sen, denies the film is based on her.
Pal founded the Gulabi Gang in Uttar Pradesh as a response to violence against women. It is currently estimated to have around 200,000 members. The women in this group dress in pink saris and carry lathis. Apart from protesting socials ills like dowry and female illiteracy, they are known to threaten and beat those abusive towards women. The film Gulaab Gang stars Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, and tells the story of a gang of Indian women quite like Pal’s Gulabi Gang—women who dress in pink saris and fight social injustice.
The real-life Gulabi Gang has already been the subject of two authorised documentaries , the 2010 film Pink Saris by Kim Longinotto and the 2012 film Gulabi Gang by Nishtha Jain. A few days before the release of Gulaab Gang, Pal filed a case seeking a stay on the film in the Delhi High Court. A Times of India report quoted Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva as saying that the release of the film would cause irreparable damage to Pal’s reputation.
Speaking about the new film, documentary filmmaker Nishitha Jain, who made the 2012 Gulabi Gang, recently told The New York Times: “What is extremely shocking is the impunity with which they have taken the name ‘Gulaab Gang’, which is very similar to ‘Gulabi Gang’... The makers also said that Gulabi Gang is not the only women’s group in India. Then how come they use the name, that too without permission from Sampat and not bothering to meet her?”