What You Must Know About The Real Heera Mandi 

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What You Must Know About The Real Heera Mandi 

| Updated: May 8, 2024 12:39

The series explores the historical red-light district of Lahore, Pakistan, known as Heera Mandi

The new series ‘Heeramandi’ streaming on Netflix is creating waves of all kinds. The series took 14 years for Sanjay Leela Bhansali to develop.

The series explores the historical red-light district of Lahore, Pakistan, known as Heera Mandi or ‘Diamond Market’ in Urdu. Heera Mandi still exists. Described below are some interesting real-life facts.  

Heera Mandi was established by Hira Singh Dogra, the prime minister of the Sikh Kingdom of Lahore from September 17, 1843, to December 21, 1844. Wanting to help the local economy, Hira Singh set up a grain market called ‘Heera Singh Di Mandi’ in the Shahi Mohalla, an area close to the royal court and known for housing the courtesans of the Walled City of Lahore. The grain market turned the area into an economic centre and Heera Mandi flourished. 

Identity change 

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Mughals brought women from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to perform classical Indian dances such as Kathak. Over time, Heera Mandi evolved into a renowned centre for courtesans. 

Following invasions by Ahmad Shah Abdali, Heera Mandi became known for prostitution. Despite its notorious reputation, the area still functions as a regular market during the day, selling food and musical instruments, among other items. However, at night, it transforms into a hub for sex trade.

Set during the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s, the series has a mix of love, power, revenge, and the quest for freedom. The cast includes Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, and others. Heeramandi showcases the Bhansali touch in its elaborate sets and detailed costumes. 

Bhansali’s has brought into the spotlight an overlooked aspect of South Asian history. The series aims to blend historical narratives with storytelling.

Lack of realism

The over-stylised look of the production has been criticised for blurring the storyline and suppressing the expressions of the characters. The normal hustle-bustle of the ‘Shahi Mohalla’ of Lahore has not been shown. One critic has flayed the lack of realism – no  children or stray dogs on the streets, garbage,  potholes, trees, street sounds, strains of vocal ‘riyaz’… 

There are certain quarters which have criticised the series for being historically and factually incorrect. Critics have rued the lack of domain knowledge in India’s cinema community. For instance, there are blunders where Urdu newspapers of today are read by the courtesans! This stylised reality has also led to the absence of “real” politics, critics have said.   

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