Sanjay Gupta: She took over what was considered male bastion

Crime dramas are Sanjay Gupta’s forte. His next, a biographical web series based on the life of drug queen Shashikala Patankar alias Baby, however, holds a special place. “I have been waiting for the right material to come by. This is India’s Narcos story waiting to be told,” begins Gupta, who will serve as the creator-producer on the 10-part series. He will also co-direct the Bhushan Kumar-backed offering with Samit Kakkad. 

Envisioned as a multi-season affair, the show’s first edition will go on floors by mid-2022. Gupta believes that the journey of Meow Meow Queen — as she was known after she allegedly became Maharashtra’s biggest dealer of mephedrone aka Meow Meow — has all the ingredients for a gripping on-screen retelling. In the mid-1980s, Patankar was thrown out of her house, with her two kids in tow, by her abusive husband. She went on to live in Worli’s slums, working as a milk vendor and domestic help. In the following years, she apparently traded in marijuana and brown sugar before gaining control of the narcotics trade and dealing in mephedrone. “She controlled the biggest narcotics empire in India. In 2015, she was arrested after 120 kilos of mephedrone was found at her residence. Our story traces the manhunt that remained unfulfilled till she surrendered. Her rise to power hinges on how she took over what was popularly considered a male bastion. How she exploited her romance with a cop is another interesting facet. We’ll also focus on her rivalry with existing drug lords who cut off her supplies,” says Gupta.

Her story has piqued the interest of many storytellers, but Gupta says he has an ace up his sleeve. “We have bought the official rights to the story. Kakkad co-ordinated the deal. Once she was on board, she was forthcoming [about the events in her life]. We brought a female writer on board so that she would be more comfortable opening up to a woman.” The team will lock the cast in a few months, after the OTT platform is finalised. “The beauty of OTT is that you don’t have the pressure to cast a star. We have to find the right actor to play Baby. Hansal Mehta could’ve cast a known name, but he chose Pratik Gandhi [for Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story] who was a perfect fit for the role. As a filmmaker, this has been liberating.”

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