Heeramandi Web Series Review: A Bustling Market

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar" delves into the lives of tawaifs in Lahore's Heera Mandi during the Indian independence movement. it stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sanjeeda Sheikh & Sharmin Segal.

General Rating

In a nut-shell:

A Bustling Market

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar  Star Cast/ Actors: Anuj Sharm as Hamid, Manisha Koirala as Mallikajaan, Sonakshi Sinha as Fareedan, Aditi Rao Hydari as Bibbo, Sharmin Segal as Alam, Sanjeeda Sheikh as Waheeda, Taha Shah Badussha as Tajdar, Mark Bennington as Samuel Henderson, Shekhar Suman as Nawab Zulfikar, Fardeen Khan as Wali Mohommad, Richa Chadha as Lajjo, Farida Jalal as Qudsia Begum, Adhyayan Suman as  Zorawar & more.

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali & Mitakshara Kumar

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Release Date: May 01, 2024

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Available On: Netflix OTT Platform

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Released/ Available In Languages: Hindi

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Number Of Episodes: 8

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Episode Duration: 60 minutes (approx each episode)

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Critic Review:

Writer-music composer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali brings his brand of spectacular visuals to the small screen and makes a dramatically stunning start.

Transplant the palace intrigue of royalty to glittering havelis full of tawaifs (nautch girls) trained to serve pleasure to their customers. Only, the head of the family, just as wily and wicked as any king, is a woman who rules with haughtiness.

An early scene establishes the heartlessness of Mallikajaan (Manisha Koirala) where neither sibling nor assorted daughters, nieces or their desires make any difference to her decisions.

Mallikajaan rules unchallenged, crushing the dreams of sundry tawaifs in the haveli including the poetically-inclined Alamzeb (Sharmin Segal), Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari), Waheeda (Sanjeeda Sheikh) and Lajjo (Richa Chadha).

Nawabi patrons Zulfikar (Shekhar Suman), Zorawar (Adhyayan Suman) and Wali Mohammed (Fardeen Khan), flit in and out.

It’s the British Raj and a few gora officers must be entertained.

For no reason at all, except to stir more enemies into the plot, Mallikajaan humiliates the police officers. Put it down to her impetuousness for whimsical contrariness surfaces quite frequently.

Intermittently, there are references to what Mallikajaan did to her sister years ago with the keys to (and the ownership of) Khwabgah, the haveli next door, a big bone of contention.

In the first two episodes, Bhansali brings in and dismisses Lajjo to prove Mallikajaan’s cardinal rule – a tawaif must never fall in love. Or aspire for respectability outside the haveli.

A young romance between London-educated Tajdar Baloch (Taha Shah Badussha) and Alamzeb also begins to blossom.

All’s well and not so well (going by the troubled equations) when Mallikajaan is confronted by the one shadow of the past she’d wanted out of her life. Fareedan (Sonakshi Sinha) has moved in next door to challenge her.

A transgender Ustaadji (Indresh Malik), a glorified pimp, carries tales from one haveli to the other like a narad munni. It’s quite incredulous that he’s entertained by both. But one shot where he’s gifted a nath (a nose ring with chain) is both unkind and kind.

Although it’s troublesome keeping track of the myriad characters walking in and out, each with a different heartache to bare, there is enough intrigue swirling around the chandeliers and whirling skirts of dancing tawaifs, to keep you invested for a while.

Especially since Bhansali, a master of visuals, creates an immersive world on a scale so far unknown to the small screen.

Setting out with an original concept by former journalist Moin Baig and with co-writer Divy Nidhi Sharma, Bhansali keeps it sparkling with daring, deceit and deviousness that’s devoid of scruples or motherly softness. It is a new world he throws open. Even the Alam-Taj love story against the backdrop of their social differences worsened by her mother’s and his father’s unbending sternness, has prospects of much drama.

But alas. Bhansali gets waylaid by cries of azaadi and inquilaab.

There’s a dialogue by one of the tawaifs who remarks, “I hope he/she is not distracted by the freedom struggle.” That’s precisely what happens to Bhansali who suddenly goes down the path that advocates, ‘Don’t forget that Hindustan’s freedom was also won by the patriotic tawaifs of Heeramandi’, along with a host of freedom fighters with names like Rashid, Hamid, and a token Umesh with a tilak here and there.

Suddenly, there’s honour among the warring tawaifs. Humiliation of her chief rival outrages Fareedan who draws a difference between wanting to hurt the pride of her old tormentor but not desiring the destruction of her guroor (honour). It’s a laboured distinction between the two.

Feminists will see the message that enforced sexual submission of a tawaif is unacceptable. True, but it kind of gets lost in the sea of patriotic fervour that overtakes the residents of Heeramandi who douse their lamps and silence their instruments.

Once those deliciously wicked tawaifs become uniformly goody-goody and patriotic, the glitter dulls, seeming more like an extension and amplification of the 2017 film, Begum Jaan. The takeaway message is the same: nobody understands the value of freedom more than a tawaif, she’s a bird in a cage.

The fun and intrigue of Heeramandi thus takes a different tone.

You can’t help missing the glitter, the chatter and the craftiness of the tawaif who does what she does unapologetically and with a sense of pride, not misplaced in her scheme of things.

Bhansali’s music is 50-50, a couple of rhythmic/melodious numbers like ‘Sakal ban’ and ‘Tilasmi bahein’ followed by forgettable ones.

Standing tall are Manisha Koirala and Sonakshi Sinha with suitable support from the rest of the haveli girls. Although Shekhar, Fardeen and Adhyayan have their moments, they don’t really have roles that matter.

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar  – Watch Or Not?: Like a young man drawn to a kotha out of curiosity, the world Bhansali conjures is worth a peep.

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Review Score Rating:  3 out of 5 (i.e. 3/5)

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Official Trailer:

Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar Official Trailer (Credits: Netflix India)

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A Bustling MarketHeeramandi Web Series Review: A Bustling Market