: Fearless Rajjo runs a martial academy for rural women. What happens when she faces ruthless politician Madam ji?
: Straight on, Gulaab Gang's deepest colour comes from its villain, Madam ji, a politician of supreme ambition and total crassness, played with aplomb by Juhi Chawla. The film's central protagonist is rural Rajjo (Madhuri), who runs an academy where women wield weapons and weave pink saris. Rajjo's Gulaab Gang takes on oppressive elements - dowry-demanding husbands, bribe-demanding babus, grain-hoarding traders, the rapist son of the local neta. The gang, led by Rajjo's merry women including Mahi (Jagdale) and Kajri (Chatterjee), succeeds by winning hearts or breaking bones. But does Rajjo meet her match in unforgiving Madam ji?
Gulaab Gang captures the deep oppression the vulnerable face. Some moments - Rajjo's face falling when Madam ji, presented with a rape charge against neta Pavanji's lout son, responds, "Aaj kal balatkaar ka kya rate hai?" - are memorable. The action is crackling and Madhuri looks great, going from dhak-dhak to thak-thak with a big stick. Alongside, Juhi shines with malicious pleasure as Sumitra Madam ji whose ambition - to become raja from patrani - is ferocious. Chawla makes you cringe as she wreaks revenge on anyone who crosses her, the actor getting into her role with lip-licking gusto.
But the dramatic tension simply doesn't hold. Every time there's a face-off between Rajjo and Madam ji, a diversion - a song, a character cracking a joke, guns fired - occurs, breaking the build-up. There are too many tangents, navels and nose-rings, diverting focus from Rajjo, the story's driving force. Instead of knowing how and why she becomes the tigress of Madhavpur, we're given mellifluous songs, intercut with soon-repetitive scenes of exploitation. Considering the subject's intense power and the charisma of these stars, the movie's hesitation with how to proceed stands out. At one point, Rajjo asks a woman, "Soch soch ke kaahi maarte ho?" That goes for Gulaab Gang too.