Hidden away in the slums of Lahore sits Heera Mandi — the city’s infamous Red Light district. Many don’t know how but the ‘mandi’ got its name from Heera Singh, the son of a minister of Ranjit Singh’s royal court. Heera was also a minister of Sher Singh’s court during the Sikh period.
The area was first developed by the British in the old Anarkali Bazaar of Lahore for the recreation of the British soldiers. After that, it shifted to Lohari Gate and then to Taxali gate. But they seem to have spent more time at the latter rather than other places. Thus they settled in Heera Mandi and one can still find the traces of that.
The tales of the past have been echoing through the walls of the district, longing for storytellers to revive them. And now, it seems like they may have finally found their calling. Celebrated Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has expressed a desire to work on a venture about Heera Mandi. And if the latest reports are to be trusted, his dream project is finally set to roll.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, it has been reported that the Saawariya filmmaker has joined hands with streaming giant Netflix to make a period drama/web-film. While the wait continues for it to go on the floors, Pakistani star Mansha Pasha has a few questions.
Taking to Twitter, the actor has pointed out how Indian production houses are making films on subjects that would be deemed questionable in Pakistan.
“India is making a film on Lahore and the infamous Heera Mandi of yesteryears because we live in a country where the fictional narrative is often censored and everyone keeps arguing about what is or isn’t ‘morally acceptable’ fiction,” the star began.
“Others make most of the opportunity, taking up the stories that are native to our country, brand them and sell them to the rest of the world. In the end, what will be left will be our stories told from someone else’s mouth.”
Many fans have since agreed with Pasha’s stance. “It is unfortunate that India makes fictional films on our country, be it Mohenjo Daro, Lahore or even Malala Yousufzai, while our film-makers are only focused on commercial or controversial subjects, instead of fictionalised subjects like Harappa or Dr Abdus Salam,” shared a user.
“Sanjay Leela Bhansali is going to do this. Given his past movies and the thorough research he undertakes for his projects, screenplay and cinematography are going to be very interesting,” said another.
“Couldn’t agree more and it is a sad state of affairs to see our stories being narrated by another country. We could’ve done it more beautifully if we weren’t under the attack of censorship,” penned a fan.
But a well-known media anchor begged to differ. “While I have criticised Pemra (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) for its ridiculous ban over a Gala (biscuit) ad and I agree with what you said, I want to remind you that India is a country where Padmavaat was banned and Deepika Padukone was given death threats because she played Padmavati. India is not ideal either!” they said.
To this, Pasha retorted: “Modi’s regime is known for its fanaticism but I don’t think it’s right to use that as a benchmark to defend the censorship that is prevalent here for decades.”
While Pakistani cinema is still on its journey to revival, the thought of making films on social taboos such as prostitution should always be entertained. It would be interesting to see how Bollywood takes on Heera Mandi.
The upcoming venture seems to be a star-studded affair with the likes of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Madhuri Dixit-Nene rumoured to have been roped in for the project.
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