‘Heeramandi’: Netizens point out historical inaccuracies in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s series

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Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s debut show on Netflix India, “Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar”, has opened to mixed reviews. Now, some internet users have claimed historical inaccuracies in the period drama, from how the Lahore locality from the pre-Independence era is depicted to how a couple of elements on the screen get the timeline wrong.

Hamd Nawaz, a young Lahore-based doctor, has written a thread on X, detailing how Bhansali’s show is starkly different from the Heeramandi locality she’s read about as a Pakistan resident. She wrote, “Just watched ‘Heeramandi’. Found everything but Heermandi in it. I mean, either you don’t set your story in 1940’s Lahore, or if you do– you don’t set it in Agra’s landscape, Delhi’s Urdu, Lakhnavi dresses and 1840’s vibe. My not-so-sorry Lahori self can’t really let it go.”

“Heeramandi spans from Taxali Gate to modern-day Phajay kay Paye or Cheet Ram Road. Walk it all- you won’t find a single such courtyard, let alone something this big. Those were multi-storey 5/10 Marla Kothas/Makans at max. The social/financial strata it shows never even existed,” she wrote further.

 

She also argued that the average Lahori in the 1940s conversed in Punjabi and not in Urdu, as depicted by Bhansali in his series. She even contested that Amir Khusrow’s “Sakal Ban” wasn’t the song to be sung in that era. “‘Sakal Ban’ wasn’t the Lahori thing to sing, chaiti bowdi vay tabiba was. It was 1940s, Noor Jahan’s Punjabi masterpieces were there– the cinema had platformed many singers from Heeramandi, and none of them sounded like whatever Sufiana custard we’re seeing here,” she added.

Hamd also argued that the tawaifs of that era and that locality never wore the couture attires Bhansali has adorned them with. She wrote, “Bhansali’s search should’ve definitely gone beyond Bridal Couture walks. The courtesan never had the financial security to even remotely afford these jewels. What are these blouses? Saris? Ghagras? Lehngas? Some Punjabi dress maybe? Na, let’s go Sabyasachi on them.”

“It was not a street of glamour, but of exploitation, slavery and filthy poverty. And those who lived there, at least deserve to be seen as they were,” she wrote, concluding, “I rant as I’ve seen that area, interacted with people around there, spent my clinical rotations in hospitals there and I think its story definitely needs to be told, but only after someone actually comes and visits the area he is bringing to life,” she added.

 

Some netizens also located Umera Ahmed’s popular 2004 novel “Peer-e-Kamil” in a bookshelf in the background of a scene set in the library.

Some others shared a screenshot of Sonakshi Sinha’s character Fareedan reading an Urdu newspaper with the date claiming it’s 2022.

Set against the backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s, Heermandi stars an ensemble cast, including Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Sharmin Segal and Taha Shah Badussha.

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