‘Heeramandi’ (2024) Cast And Character Guide

Heeramandi, the brand-new Netflix original from the legendary Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is like a magnificent feast served with many dishes for people to savor and enjoy. Bhansali is known for his glamorous films that are adorned with sets constructed with elaborate detailing. Heeramandi is the tale of several courtesans living in Shahi Mahal under the guidance and tyranny of Mallikajaan. The trials and tribulations of every woman working and performing under her and the advent of her nemesis in the neighborhood form the tale of the eight-part show.


Spoilers Ahead


Mallikajaan, aka Mallika, is the matriarch of Shahi Mahal, located at Heeramandi in Lahore. Portrayed by the impeccable Manisha Koirala, the woman is a madam who has two daughters and several other dancers working for her. All of them consider her to be the boss or refer to her as Aapa, aka “sister.” Mallikajaan was the faux queen of Heeramandi, and many decisions in the area happened as per her rules and dictates. This place is the hub of nautch girls who were trained to entice the nobles and the rich men of the city. 


Mallikajaan was the sole decision-maker of the Shahi Mahal and never allowed any other women, including her daughters, to step out of the palace themselves. Alamzeb and Bibbojaan were her daughters, and she wanted to make one of them her heir to the seat at Shahi Mahal. Mallikajaan has a patron who was referred to as Sahab in the courtesan world and who would be her lover as well as her provider, and he is Nawab Bahadur Zulfikar, who has been by her side since her young days. 

Mallikajaan loved Sahab just enough to not get emotionally hurt by his absence. Mallikajaan and Nawab Zulfikar were involved in a crime in their younger days that was erased at the insistence of the noble and his bribery. Ever since both got together, he has been the father of Bibbojaan and Alamzeb. Mallikajaan wants to teach young women about the pain of love and how lust is what keeps noblemen attached to them. 


Her hope of turning her daughter into a nautch girl is thwarted when Alamzeb falls in love with Nawab Tajdar Baloch. Mallikajaan begins her ploy to end their relationship. Her older daughter, Bibbojaan, is also a victim of her mother’s brainwashing, but she finds her way out to be a free bird. Mallikajaan is a jealous and bitter woman who eventually becomes a problem for everyone who is a threat to her power and her children. She has enemies all around her, yet her contacts and charm are unbeatable. 


Sonakshi Sinha, as Fareedan, is the only nemesis of Mallikajaan. She is the only daughter of Rehana Aapa, who was killed by Mallikajaan. Fareedan was sold to another man at the tender age of 10, and several years later she comes back seeking revenge on Mallikajaan for killing her mother and ruining her childhood. Fareedan’s only aim is to shake the core of Shahi Mahal and to counter every rule of Heeramandi. 


Fareedan plans to end the reign of Mallikajaan, who is stuck in the old-world charm of nobility, whereas she begins to bring in English men and sing nonclassical songs at the home inherited through her late mother, Khwabgah. Fareedan plans to control several men to make her plan work. She wants the police officer Cartwright on her side to get him to reopen the case of her mother’s death. Despite Fareedan’s hate for Mallikajaan, she enjoyed being a matchmaker between Tajdar and Alamzeb, and the stories of their rendezvous in the crowded streets of Heeramandi brought a smile to her face.


Sharmin Segal as Alamzeb, the youngest daughter of Mallikajaan was raised in Shahi Mahal around women who are constantly heartbroken, and she has witnessed them being betrayed by many they love and respect. Though she is a young woman who is poised to debut as per her mother’s plans, Alamzeb wants to be a poetess and live freely. Bibbojaan is the only person in the mahal who recognizes her talent for ‘Shayari’ and gets her books accordingly without informing their mother. She happens to meet Tajdar Baloch during one of the poetry sessions of her favorite poet. Theirs is love at first sight, even though both never shared their details, including the background they come from. Alamzeb and Tajdar are in love, and there are many obstacles to their undying love, which include his family and her mother. 


Alamzeb hopes Tajdar accepts her and she can seek freedom from life away from Shahi Mahal and the shackles of her mother’s words. Alamzeb craves love, which includes acceptance and having a legitimate family. She did not want a sahab who would love her and throw money at her whenever required. 


Sanjeeda Sheikh as Waheeda is a woman who has had the worst luck among many women living in Shahi Mahal. Waheeda is also the only witness to the murder of Rehana committed by Mallikajaan and Zulfikar many years ago. Waheeda is promised Khwabjah once the dispute over the property comes to an end and Mallikajaan gets control of it. Mallika made this promise after the death of Rehana in return for hiding the file that could implicate the madam and her lover. Waheeda is constantly angry at her fate, as she has never been pursued by any Nawab for long. 


Waheeda hopes one day there will be someone she will be able to entertain and who will love her enough to shower her with money and jewels. Waheeda at times wants to go against Mallikajaan and work for Fareedan, and help her bring justice to her mother. Waheeda’s fate seems awful, but she can only hope the tides will change in her favor. 


Aditi Rao Hydari as Bibbojaan is the elder daughter of Mallikajaan, who harbors a secret about herself. She is a freedom fighter who discreetly supports the Indian freedom movement and attends several meetings. Bibbojaan is also a fantastic singer who is loved by many nobles, but the only person she shares her bed with is Nawab Wali Mohammad. Wali Mohammad and Bibbojaan have been in love, but she refuses to have expectations. 


Bibbojaan in Shahi Mahal is an obedient daughter, but secretly she craves freedom to live on her terms, which is the reason behind her anti-British sentiments. She uses the money she receives from Wali Mohammad and other performances for the underground movement. Bibbojaan sadly had to become a pawn in her mother’s power-hungry games, but that did not stop her from supporting Alamzeb and helping her pursue love. Bibbojaan is heartbroken, but she channels the same towards the cause close to her heart.

Tajdar Baloch

Taha Shah Badussha, also known as Tajdar Baloch, is a young man returning to Lahore after his studies in London. He plans to become a barrister, but his father insists he join his hotel business. He is also introduced to the freedom movement through Hamid, who saved him from a protest that went violent. 


Tajdar Baloch’s meet-cute with Alamzeb made him pursue her like the prince follows Cinderella. Both eventually keep having meet-ups, and at the same time, Tajdar joins the freedom movement because of his strong patriotic emotions. Tajdar is a traditionalist man who has a tough time accepting Alamzeb because of her familial background, but soon he sees her for who she is, which further gives him the strength to stand up to the British. Yet, the young man in love makes mistakes that cost him many things close to his heart. Tajdar Baloch is a great mix of good looks and a royal lineage who is man enough to accept the woman he loves. 

Miscellaneous Characters

Lajjo Aapa: Richha Chadha as Lajwanti Aapa, is yet another nautch girl under Mallikajaan who was hopelessly in love with Nawad Zorawar. He left her to marry a woman of his stature. Lajjo’s Aapa’s initial impression is Zorawar will agree to marry her only to realize she will have to pursue him constantly to make him accept her and her family. Lajjo keeps talking about her past and how her aunt sold her off to Mallikajaan, so that she has seen nothing outside of Heeramandi. Lajjo hopes to have Zorawar by her side and tries to seduce him the way she did in the past, but nothing works as the man has made up his mind. 


Satto and Phatto: Jayati Bhatia as Phatto and Nivedita Bhargava as Satto are the cooks and helpers of Mallikajaan who happened to be the witnesses of what goes around inside the Shahi Mahal. They are aware of incidents that do not reach the world outside the palace, and they love to gossip. Saima, one of Alamzeb’s helpers, is their favorite person and they feel the young girl is as beautiful as Alamzeb and sings beautifully. Both talk in favor of and against Mallikajaan at times, which irks the madam, and they are used to the punishments coming their way. Phatto and Satto are also the keepers of the traditions of the palace, just like Mallikajaan, and at times they are worried that Saima will become one of their madam’s targets and be sold off. 

Ustaadji: Ustaadji, portrayed by Indresh Malik, is the sutradhar between two palaces facing each other in Heeramandi. Ustaadji is the hijra around them that brings news and patrons to everyone living in the vicinity. He brings good and bad news at times, but he mostly lives for Mallikajaan and Fareedan. Fareedan is the only woman around him who understands his desire to be a woman; sadly, no one around him could see that. 


Officer Cartwright: Jason Shah, as Officer Alastair Cartwright, is the villain of the show, who wants to crack down on the rebels working against the British government in India. For the Indians, they are freedom fighters, but for the Britishers, they are uncouth rebels working towards toppling the British government in India. Officer Cartwright tries to get Mallikajaan onto his side, but to his shock, she is loyal to the patrons and the women of Heeramandi. The aging woman and the young police officer started on a bad note, and the friction is only going to get worse. He hires Ustaadji to be his informant and hopes to find dirt on Mallikajaan. Officer Cartwright is the stereotypical dreadful British officer whose only job is to look down upon the locals and hopes to gather the support of the rich and the noble to put an end to underground rebel movements.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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