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Sanjay Leela Bhansali Reveals the Global Success of Netflix’s ‘Heeramandi’




Sanjay Leela Bhansali Reveals the Global Success of Netflix's 'Heeramandi'

The verdict is known. The public has spoken. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus debut series ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar’ is a global hit for Netflix, dancing to the second position on the streamer’s global non-English TV chart.

The lush story covers the period from 1920 to 1947 and is set in the Heeramandi district of Lahore, British India, the milieu of the tawaifs. Similar to the geishas of Japan, tawaifs were trained in music and dance and were courted by the nobility. At the center of the show is Mallikajaan (Manisha Koirala), the devious queen of Heeramandi, and her vengeful niece Fareedan (Sonakshi Sinha), who has ambitions to take her aunt’s place.

“Heeramandi” is Netflix’s biggest Indian original to date and the biggest venture of Bhansali’s storied career. The filmmaker is no stranger to box office hits, including his latest theatrical release, 2022’s ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’. While he is used to the ‘Friday report card’, as Indian filmmakers often describe box office numbers on release day, his global streaming -public reports a completely different exam.

“’Heeramandi’ was my first OTT [streaming] launch and I am blessed with all the love the audience has given me, my technicians and my actors,” shared Bhansali. Variety from a holiday location where he takes a break after an intensive production process of 350 recording days in three years. “I am grateful to Netflix for making the series available to viewers in 194 countries. Unlike a film where direct feedback comes in the form of box office numbers, this is very different for a series. The anticipation was filled with excitement and a sense of responsibility, and it was interesting to see that what we were creating would be presented to a global audience.”

“The responses were overwhelming and heartwarming. What really struck me was that the audience watched ‘Heeramandi’ and even watched it two or three times in a row. It has been fun to see the kind of response we have received on social media and the kind of content people are creating around the show from different parts of the world,” Bhansali added. “The music of the series has struck a chord with the audience, which is very rare for an OTT show. It is also comforting to see how people connected with the story, the lives of these courtesans and the emotional journeys of the characters, regardless of their cultural background.”

Looking back at Heeramandi’s trial, is there anything Bhansali would have done differently? “There is always a desire to refine your own work and take it to the next level. But looking back at ‘Heeramandi’, I am happy with what we have achieved,” Bhansali said. “I remember working on the post, editing and re-editing until the very last moment of delivery. But now, when I look back and look at it, I don’t think I would change anything.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Manisha Koirala and Sonakshi Sinha on the sets of “Heeramandi”
Bhansali Productions

Bhansali’s next is ‘Love & War’, which sees him return to films with a cast led by Bollywood megastars and real-life power couple Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, alongside Vicky Kaushal.

“It is a love story that I am making after a long time. A slightly contemporary work, different from the dances, pillars, architecture, curtains, curtains and jewelry [of “Heeramandi”]. It is a new language, environment and atmosphere for me,” says Bhansali about the film. “I needed [it] very much to stimulate me as a filmmaker to do something new, to talk about a different period, a different set of characters and new circumstances.”

“It’s fun to work with this great cast of Ranbir, Vicky and Alia. It will be fun to see how their chemistry works. And [it is] a triangular love story, which has not been in Hindi cinema for a long time. So let’s see how it all takes shape,” Bhansali added.