Ever since I saw the first announcement of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus, Gangubai Kathiawadi, I’ve been intrigued by the life story of the matriarch of Kamathipura.
The plot of the Alia Bhatt starrer is picked from a chapter of crime journalist Hussain Zaidi’s book, Mafia Queens of Mumbai. So I decided to flick through the book to get an insight into her tale. And that acquainted me with the other “mafia queens,” who are no less fascinating than Gangubai.
Here’s a rundown of other women who once ruled the criminal underworld.
1. Jenabai Daruwali
As per Zaidi’s book, born Zainab Darwesh Gandhi, Jenabai was the first mafia queen of the Mumbai underworld. During the partition, she refused to leave Mumbai and stayed back here with her five children while her husband went to Pakistan. Initially, she started selling rice to feed the family, which soon turned into the smuggling of ration. Later, Jenabai got into making and selling illicit liquor and earned the name “Daruwali.” Gangsters like Karim Lala, Haji Mastan, and Dawood often sought her advice.
2. Ashraf Khan
Ashraf Khan got into the underworld to avenge her husband’s (Mehmood Kalia) death in a police encounter. He was allegedly killed by Dawood Ibrahim to set an example for others. She trained herself with one objective of shooting down Dawood one day. In fact, she veiled her identity and was known as Sapna Didi.
(Ashraf Khan murder site)
3. Mahalaxmi Papamani
Mahalaxmi Papamani was “the wealthiest drug baroness in Mumbai” and monopolised the drug trade in Central Mumbai till the late 90s. She got into the trade to put food on her table, but soon acquired a vital role in the city’s narco business.
4. Jyoti Adiramlingam
Papamani’s confidante, Jyoti Adiramlingam aka Jyoti Amma, handled the drug trafficking network in Reay Road, Central Mumbai. She was a part of the infamous trio of the drug trade—Savitri, Jyoti, and Papamani.
5. Shameen Mirza Beg
Shameen Mirza Beg aka Mrs Paul was the wife of Chhota Shakeel’s key lieutenant Arif Beg. After the latter was arrested, she joined the gang. She was arrested in 2002 under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
6. Asha Gawli
Asha Gawli is the wife of Arun Gawli who once enjoyed the street name of ‘Daddy’. The former has allegedly shielded her husband against the police machinery and fake encounters multiple times. Back in 2017, Arjun Rampal portrayed the gangster-turned-politician in Ashim Ahluwalia’s directorial Daddy.
7. Rubina Siraj Sayyed
Notoriously referred to as the ‘Heroine’, Rubina was the girlfriend of the infamous gangster Chhota Shakeel. Before joining his gang to handle his financial affairs and arms supply, she was a renowned beautician.
8. Neeta Naik
Following an attack on the notorious gangster Amar Naik, his brother Ashwin Naik was convinced to join the underworld by his wife Neeta Naik. She even took over his operations when he had to flee the country. But when the couple had a fallout, Ashwin got his henchmen to brutally gun her down in 2000.
9. Archana Sharma
Archana Sharma started off as a member of Babloo Srivastava’s gang. She was allegedly involved in several kidnappings of builders and extortion cases in various cities.
10. Tarannum Khan
Tarannum Khan, who worked at the Deepa bar, minted millions through betting on international cricket tournaments. In fact, as per the book, she had a clientele ranging from Bollywood to international cricket players. However, she has denied all such allegations in an interview with DNA, in which she said, “I do not know anybody from the underworld. I am not involved in illegal activities”.
How many of them did you know about?