Vivek Agnihotri Criticizes SLB’s “Heeramandi” For Glorifying ‘Brothels’

Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri voiced criticism of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Heeramandi" on X (formerly Twitter), citing its glorification of brothels and courtesans.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s series ‘Heeramandi’ has garnered praise from his fans, but it has also drawn criticism for its romanticized depiction of the lives of ‘tawaifs’ and ‘kothas.’ Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri recently voiced his dissent, arguing that the series glorifies the existence of courtesans and brothels.

Following the criticism, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri now shared a post by a Pakistani doctor that pointed out inaccuracies in the portrayal of Heeramandi, Lahore’s red-light district. He emphasized Bollywood’s tendency to romanticize such locations, asserting that brothels symbolize “human injustice and suffering” rather than luxury and beauty.

He wrote, “A brilliant critique by @SophieSchol. I haven’t seen the show, but I have visited Heeramandi in Lahore a few times. Bollywood has this tendency to romanticize courtesans and brothels. It’s a sad commentary because brothels have never been places of opulence, glamour or beauty. These are monuments of human injustice, pain and suffering. Those unfamiliar with this should watch Shyam Benegal’s Mandi.”

Vivek urged his followers to contemplate the ramifications of idealizing human suffering in artistic expression. He further added, “Also, a question we must ask: Does creativity give us the freedom to glamorize human suffering? Is it okay to make a film where slum life is depicted as a life of abundance? Is it okay to portray slum dwellers wearing clothes as if they are attending an Ambani wedding? Pl discuss.”

About Heeramandi

“Heeramandi” delves into the lives of tawaifs during the Indian independence movement from the 1920s to the 1940s in Lahore’s Heera Mandi. The series features a talented cast, including Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal, Taha Shah Badussha, Shekhar Suman, and Adhyayan Suman in key roles.

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