Bollywood Reviews, TV Reviews

HEERAMANDI Premiere: Bhansali Replicates His Cinematic Brilliance On The Small Screen

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is undoubtedly one of Indian cinema’s greatest storytellers. The renowned writer-director has in his filmography some of the most iconic Bollywood movies of their generation. So when he brings his brand of storytelling, radiant visual aesthetic and grandiose stories to the episodic format with a new Netflix original series, we all start paying very close attention! And it’s no surprise that this new series, Heeramandi, exceeds all expectations that we could have had from the auteur. Read on for my Heeramandi premiere review

Please note that the following will be a spoiler-free Heeramandi premiere review. 

A Gorgeous World Filled With Powerful Characters

Heeramandi premiere review Koirala.

Image via Netflix.

Most famous for his epic stories with radiant visuals told in a grand cinematic manner, Bhansali is at his best here, and Heeramandi is no different, despite being in an episodic format. Instead, every episode feels hand-crafted with delicacy and genius. Instantly, we fall in love with the world and the language; to where even the dialogue feels like poetry that moves the story forward. This approach draws audiences in, along with the immersive world-building. 

The Heeramandi premiere begins with a shocking flashback, before moving the story forward in time. We learn that the story takes place in 1920’s India, pre-liberation where the British still ruled strong, as was their friendship with the Nawabs. What follows is a very careful and organic unveiling of this world, its politics and the status quo of each group of characters and the delicate balance between them all. Along with powerful, quirky and charismatic characters that slowly fill the screen, Heeramandi is so very compelling and highly enthralling. 

Heeramandi Premiere Review Is Spoiler-Free

Heeramandi premiere review Shaikh.

Image via Netflix.

Bhansali does something very special with the Heermandi premiere. There’s this juxtaposition of the lavish with the vulgar. While his usually epic period decor is on full display, along with the costumes and sets, it’s how he blends that with the more crass and mundane, that I found intriguing. Montages of Aditi Rao Hydari regaling an audience with a skillful Mujra is intercut with discussions of a more, private nature. Which enhances each scene that much more, going back and forth adeptly between two contrasting on-screen images. 

Along with Bhansali’s visual direction, the story is also something to marvel at. The introductions of each character, amid some seemingly mundane drama are so very engaging that you instantly want more. And then things escalate later as the drama is amped up exponentially. The power trips and politics of this world, mixed in with the personal arcs of these characters make Heeramandi an incredible show that has many layers. 

Powerful Performances Rule The Heeramandi Series

Heeramandi premiere review cast

Image via Netflix.

There’s so much to love in the Heeramandi premiere, but none more than the insane ensemble cast and some of the performances thus far. Leading the series looks like Manisha Koirala as Mallikajaan, the madam of this Tawaif house in 1920’s Lahore, located in the Heeramandi district, implied to be akin to the red light district of that era. However, the world is different. Courtesans known as Tawaifs are artists of the community, well-respected and drawing large crowds of noblemen for their performances. While they do usually have 1 exclusive patron, things are flexible in Heeramandi. And Mallikajaan is the queen. 

Then there are her daughters, Alam (Sharmin Segal) and Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari); one is the jewel of Heeramandi with her brilliant voice, while the other is finally of age, but refuses to become a Tawaif. You can already see the conflict brewing. Segal is stunning in the role of a demure and timid young woman fighting against her destiny. Hydari is just as brilliant on screen as she is in everything she does, and I hope she gets a lot more to do in the rest of the series. She is one of the most criminally underused actors in the Indian industry. Rounding out this amazing cast is even more amazing talent like Richa Chaddha, Sonakshi Sinha, Sanjeeda Shaikh, Farida Jalal, Fardeen Khan, Sekhar Suman and so many more. 

Heermandi is now streaming on Netflix

Heeramandi is the usual greatness that Bhansali brings to the big screen, but in a format that allows him to pace out his story better, while still keeping audiences drawn in, holding their seat for what’s to come. It’s a quintessentially Bhansali work, in terms of the grand scope of the story and scale. Along with an incredible cast with brilliant performances, I can’t wait to see how this series progresses after the premiere episode. 

What did you think of the Heeramandi premiere? Let me know in the comments below or come geek out with me over the show on X (formerly Twitter) at @theshahshahid.

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HEERAMANDI Premiere: Bhansali Replicates His Cinematic Brilliance On The Small Screen
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