It is a misconception that women are inferior in terms of strength, courage and spirit. Dacoit Phoolan Devi broke that norms by rebelling against the tyrant and corrupt upper classes of rural India. Mata Hari became the first woman spy to dig out the undisclosed secrets until she was betrayed and ultimately shot to death. S.Hussain. Zaidi’s crime thriller – Mafia Queens of Mumbai is a fiery glimpse at the ferocious side of femininity. From dark lanes of Dongri to red light areas of Kamapathipura, the female protagonists of this crime thriller hail from various walks of life. Some enter the world of crime due to adverse circumstances while some rule the crime world to usurp the power and prove their clout among the masses.
These women from book – Mafia Queens of Mumbai are lethal, cunning, manipulative, seductive and sometimes murderess too. Bollywood has always taken inspiration from real life gangsters’ story to replicate them on silver screen. Movies like ‘Parinda’, ‘Satya’, ‘Company’, ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai’ and the recently released ‘Raees’ is a tribute to the yesteryear Godfathers. The female Godmothers are yet to appear on silver screen soon. Extensively researched by Author S.Hussain Zaidi and co-author Jane Borges, this book throws a light on lives of Jenabai, Gangubai, Mahalaxmi Papamani and Ashraf alias Sapna Didi.
What intrigued me to pick this book was the thrilling story of Jenabai Daruwali, a freedom fighter turned bootlegger. Her thrilling transformation to a bootlegger, police informer and a Godmother was really worth a game changer. After the partition, her husband abandoned not only her, but also left her homeless with a daughter and son to look after. Even in these adverse circumstances, Jenabai raised her kids on her own and became a bootlegger. Her bootlegging business gave her a new name – Jenabai Daruwali. She is known to have been mentor to some of the budding youngsters of Dongri who went on to create a new history in world of crime. She also acted as a mediator to bring peace between two warring gangs. Jenabai expired in late 90’s. In the world of crime, she was the first woman to become Godmother. Her life was a source of inspiration for a satellite channel to come up with a TV series named – Amma. The older part was played by veteran actress Shabana Azmi while the younger part was played by model-actress Urvashi Sharma.
The most thrilling story that stood out in this anthology of crime stories was an untold tragedy of an innocent woman named Ashraf who turned avenger to take a might on a powerful Mafia empire. A victim of conspiracies, her husband, a local gangster was shot down by Mumbai cops. It was later revealed that it was a big conspiracy hatched by big bosses in off shore countries. To avenge this personal tragedy, Ashraf sought the help of a local gangster named Ustara and became an avenging vigilante named ‘Sapna Didi’ against the Mafia. Though she succeeded to sabotage the Mafia to a smaller extent, she herself became a victim in the end. A betrayal by one of her men tipped off the bosses to kill her off. Ashraf was brutally stabbed to death by unknown hit-men. Her only fault was that she dared to take on a mighty mafia empire. This story of Ashraf alias Sapna deserves to be made into a crime biopic someday. Sadly Ashraf alias Sapna Didi’s vengeance story is lost somewhere in dusty pages of anonymity.
Even the story of Gangubai Kathiawad, the matriarch of brothel is worth reading. How the innocent girl was cheated by her husband and forced into prostitution is shocking. The innocent girl later became a Godmother to several girls in red light area and came to be known as ‘Gangubai Kathiawad’. The pages in this crime thriller also reveal the story of Mahalaxmi Papamani, Monica Bedi, Asha Gawli, Neeta Naik, Rubina Sayyed, Tarrannum and Archana Sharma.
Author Zaidi and Jane Borges have taken pain staking effort to research the background of these notorious mafia queens. No one can ever imagine that even women can dare to rule a crime empire. The foreword by Director Vishal Bharadwaj on this book intensifies the interest to turn the pages. It is a highly recommended book for the readers who love crime genre. If Mumbai is a business hub for corporate honchos, it is also a dark lane where these unknown Mafia queens rule from their secret dens.