Art & Entertainment

'Heeramandi' On Netflix Review: Sanjay Leela Bhansali Perfectly Blends Courtesans' Strength, Depth, Significance In A Tale Of Love, Liberation

Outlook Rating:
3 / 5

'Heeramandi' Review: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's web series, with a stellar ensemble cast, premiered on Netflix on May 1.

Heeramandi poster
'Heeramandi' review Photo: IMDb

Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Netflix series 'Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar' was officially announced in April 2021. After three years, the highly anticipated show premiered on May 1. During the show's announcement, Bhansali described 'Heeramandi' as a tribute to “great courtesans who lived like queens”, a homage to women who “fight softly for dignity”. With a stellar ensemble cast and lavish production design, SLB brings back his signature style- grandeur and opulence in his OTT debut series. Before watching 'Heeramandi' on Netflix, here's all you need to know about larger-than-life web series.

'Heeramandi': Story

Set against the Indian freedom struggle movement against the British Raj in the 1940s, 'Heeramandi' is about the lives of tawaifs (courtesans) living in the red-light district of Lahore in present-day Pakistan. With this eight-episode series, Bhansali not only takes us to the intoxicatingly mesmerising world of Heeramandi but also sheds light to the contributions of these tawaifs in India's freedom struggle. It shows they not only lure men into their beds but also use their power to protect their homeland from the Britishers.

'Heeramandi': Performances, Script, Direction

Bhansali who is known for giving several strong and ambitious female characters in his earlier films, has yet again given us six women characters who epitomise ambition. They are more than 'tawaifs' -fierce and feisty who know their self-worth and can go to any extent to protect their dignity. They are all beauties with brains.

Manisha Koirala, who has reunited with SLB after 18 years, shines as Mallikajaan. She plays the matriarch of a brothel named Shahi Mahal and controls the entire Lahore. Mallikajaan is fearless and authoritative. 'Heeramandi' is indeed a great comeback for Koirala. Aditi Rao Hydari plays Mallikajaan's daughter Bibbojaan who pulls off her part well. She mostly does the talking with her eyes. She has a very sharp mind and fights against the British with compassion and dedication. Sonakshi Sinha is seen as Fareedan who is very sharp and intelligent. She is the daughter of Mallikajaan’s elder sister. She is full of vices and wants to avenge the injustice done to her mother. Richa Chadha as Lajjojaan, Sharmin Segal Mehta as Alamzeb, and Sanjeeda Sheikh as Waheedan, also play their part well. The Nawabs played Shekhar Suman, Fardeen Khan and Adhyayan Suman don't have much to offer yet do justice to what they were assigned to deliver.

Bhansali has fully utilised the long format. Every scene has a purpose and is not wasted. Every character is well-written and the dialogues are hard-hitting and leave an impact. The astute filmmaker has meticulously weaved the brothel politics with India's freedom struggle against the British Raj. He has drawn parallels between self-freedom and freedom of the nation. Divide and Rule policy was not only the tool of the British but it was also prevalent in bordello.

'Heeramandi : Cast & Crew

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Richa Chadha, Fardeen Khan, Sharmin Segal, Shekhar Suman, Taha Shah Badussha, Adhyayan Suman

Available On: Netflix

Episodes: 8

'Heeramandi': Can Kids Watch It?


'Heeramandi' Outlook Verdict

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has evolved as a filmmaker. 'Heeramandi' is not just about lavish mahals, costumes, or food. It's more than that. Very few of us know about the contribution of courtesans in India's freedom struggle. All thanks to Bhansali for shedding a light on the exploitation that was meted out to the courtesans and how they wanted to break free from their golden cages and live a dignified life. Bhansali has created strong women characters adding depth and significance to their portrayals. I am going with 3 stars.