'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

As the most anticipated series of the year, 'Heeramandi' was expected to be so much more than it is!

  • Publish date: Saturday، 04 May 2024
'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

‘Heeramandi’ was one of the most anticipated Netflix series of this year with its star-studded cast and the magic of Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, so when the series dropped on Netflix on May 1, it disappointed fans terribly.

The series is Bhansali’s debut on the global streaming platform and is a period drama set in the 1920s during the pre-independence era in Lahore, focusing on the Heeramandi neighborhood in the city. Heeramandi was a center of arts and culture during the Mughal Period in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, during the British colonization, Heeramandi became heavily associated with prostitution and turned from a center of arts and culture to a neighborhood of brothels.

The lines between these historical events have been blurred in the series and the director has attempted to represent Heeramandi in its original glory from the Mughal Era.

Films like ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Umraojaan’, or ‘Pakeezah’ oozed with grandeur and larger-than-life feeling, however Bhansali’s ‘Heeramandi’ does not a hold a candle to these classics, despite the director claiming to pay tribute to them with this Netflix series.

'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

Image source: Netflix.

‘Sakal Ban’ might have been a treat for the eyes and the ears, but the rest of the film does not encapsulate the magnificence that has been promised ever since the reveal of the project. The courtesans Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari) and Waheeda (Sanjeeda Shaikh) perform in the mehfils, but their performances do not have the allure and elegance that Anarkali (Madhubala), Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari), or Umraojaan (Rekha) have in the above-mentioned Bollywood classics.

In addition to the lacklustre of the courtesans, the plot also fails to impress.  In the first episode, Malikajaan (Manisha Koirala) says, “We, the courtesans, are the queens of Lahore. Every nawab, every king salutes at our door.” Even, the British police officer Cartwright says that the courtesans have “the nawabs under their thumbs”, however, the series proves quite the opposite.

The courtesans are subject to exploitation and mistreatment by the patrons as is revealed by Lajjo’s story who dies of alcoholism, madness, and a broken heart because of being discarded by the nawab Zoravar. In fact, at her funeral, Malikajaan says, “You don’t bid goodbye to a courtesan, you set her free. People fight and gain their freedom, a courtesan gets freedom in death.”

'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

Image source: Netflix.

Lajjo suffers the same fate as the females in Shakespearean tragedies and the fallen women of 19th-century English literature, which subdues what Malikajaan, Cartwright, and other courtesans keep repeating throughout the series. Given the titles of the ‘Queens of Lahore’, one expects these women to have the power to dictate these men, instead of being mere pawns to be them.

For most of the series, the courtesans’ stories are embroiled in jealousies and rivalries amongst themselves. One of the key plotlines is the rivalry between Malikajaan and Fareedan (Sonakshi Sinha) with the latter seeking revenge for her mother’s murder. Both seek power over Heeramandi and the patrons as part of this plotline. However, their power play involves tearing each other down, which leads to both characters being used and discarded by the patrons they claim to have a hold over. It is an impotent end to this subplot that promised the power of queens. 

Another plotline that takes up too much screen time with nothing much to show for it is Alamzeb (Sharmine Segal) and Tajdaar’s(Taha Shah Badussha) love story. Although, their first meeting at the poetry evening at Tajdar’s home promises the blooming of a beautiful and heartbreaking story, the development of their love plot falls flat and is nothing to Saleem and Anarkali or Sahibjaan and Salim Ahmed Khan’s love stories.

'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

Image source: Netflix.

Their plotline is given so much space in the plot, but the development of their love story does not have the romantic elements to convince viewers of the growing love between the characters. Both Segal and Badusshah have the emotional range of a teaspoon because the only thing both characters share with each other are coy smiles. Furthermore, the few verses that are supposed to be a motif of their love become tiresome.

“Look at me once,

And make me fall in love with you.

I am ready to burn

Like a moth in a flame.”

Other than the lacking love story, the male characters’ roles are also very limited. Although, Tajdar’s character is given a bit more space because he participates in the rebellion taking place against the British Raj, the nawabs who are vital to keep Heeramandi running have no depth nor arc. Fardeen Khan appears in the series after a 14-year-long break from the film industry, but his character Wali Mohammed is a passive nawab appearing only in a few scenes, leaving fans disappointed more than pleased.  

'Heeramandi' Fails to Deliver Everything That It Promised!

Image source: Netflix.

The only meaningful subplot is Bibbojan’s participation in the rebellion as a courtesan, which symbolizes the courtesans’ fight for freedom from the exploitation of nawabs and the British Raj. Hydari delivers a powerful monologue in the last episode:

“Who knows the value of freedom better than us?

We abandoned nobility and love abandoned us.

Now only rebellion can give some meaning to our lives.

For once, think like a patriot, not a performer. “

“From now on, Heeramandi will not bow down to anyone.”

Her character arc is more substantial than the others and she emphasizes that courtesans can gain freedom in life, even though she has to sacrifice her own in the process. Although, Bibbojan has an impact, it is subdued by the other flaws in the story.

 ‘Heeramandi’ came with a promise of something bigger than life only to deliver a series lacking everything it promised!

This article was previously published on UAE Moments.To see the original article, click here

Follow us on our Whatsapp channel for latest news