‘Heeramandi’ Web-Series Recap & Ending Explained: Why Was Fareedan Back In Heeramandi?

Heeramandi, aka The Diamond Bazaar, from Netflix India, was created and directed by the exquisite Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The man who is known for grandeur in this series covers the story of courtesans from Heeramandi, the red-light district of Lahore, which is now in Pakistan. Set in the 1920’s, these women were at the pinnacle of their power, and Heeramandi was the only place where the nobles spent lavishly while the women ruled them. This eight-episode-long web series is the fictional retelling of the stories of these women who lived to rule. 


Spoilers Ahead

Who killed Rehana Aapa?

Rehana Aapa was Mallika’s madam, who took away her newborn boy and gave him away to a childless couple from a noble family. Mallika was angry, and she vowed to take revenge for this insensitive act. Rehana was threatened by Mallika’s closeness to the former Sahab, Nawab Zulfikar, and wanted to sell her off to another patron. In retaliation, Mallika smothered her to death, and along with her lover Nawab Zulfikar they made it look like a suicide. The only witness to this murder was Waheeda, another courtesan in Khwabgah in Heeramandi. Nawab Zulfikar erased the case and the file related to it by bribing the then-British police officer. Mallika sold Rehana’s daughter, Fareedan, away to avoid any further conflict.


Why was Mallikajaan powerful?

The murderer Mallika ended up becoming Mallikajaan of Shahi Mahal, one of the grandest palaces in Heeramandi that housed many courtesans. These girls and women had many nobles and rich men as their patrons, and Mallikajaan ran the place with that income. She preserved all the jewels given to all of them in a locker, and that funded their lavish lifestyle. Mallikajaan was a tyrannical queen-like figure and would never allow any woman to make any decision on their own. Mallikajaan was also a teacher who taught young women, including her daughters, the art of seduction which would keep men interested in them till their last breath. Nawab Zulfikar was still her sahab, and she was one of the richest madams in the city of Lahore. 

How did Tajdar and Alamzeb meet?

Alamzeb was the youngest daughter of Mallikajaan, and the matriarch planned for her to be the most sought-after courtesan after Bibbojaan. Alamzeb, however, wanted to be a poetess, and in that pursuit, she ran into Tajdar Baloch at his residence, who never revealed his name or his familial background. Alamzeb next met him at a bookstore, assumed him to be an assistant and had a brief conversation about poetry. On the same evening, Tajdar rescued Alamzeb from riots, and they parted without sharing any details. 


Why was Fareedan back in Heeramandi?

Years later, Fareedan was now an adult and was back in Heeramandi. She was a splitting image of her mother, and Mallikajaan was slightly jolted by the resemblance. Fareedan was very clear about her intention to return as she wanted to exact revenge for her mother’s death and was very keen on squashing Mallikajaan’s pride as well. 

What was Fareedan’s plan of action?

Fareedan’s plan of action was to do the opposite of what was expected of her as the madam of Khwabgah. She planned to have her debut dance at Khwabgah, which would bring all the noblemen to her palace. To derail her plan, Mallikajaan announced her daughter, Bibbojaan would be performing for the last time. Everyone attended Bibbo’s performance, including her lover, Nawab Wali Mohammed. Wali Mohammed was not happy, yet he had to attend the event at the cost of his relationship. Even though Mallikajaan’s plan to humiliate Fareedan worked as no patrons attended her function, Wali Mohammed eventually came to Khwabgah to be her sahab. 


Fareedan also invited many non-Indian patrons to her palace and threw a party for Wali Mohammed, followed by singing and dancing to non-classical songs to entertain the men. This was considered an abomination by Shahi Mahal, as Mallikajaan was an artist who had aced singing as well as dancing, and she realized Fareedan would be here for the long run and she needed to be tackled a certain way. Fareedan even got the attention of Police Officer Alastair Cartwright, who wanted to find people that would speak up against Mallikajaan. He found that ally in Fareedan, who was keen on opening the age-old case of her mother’s death, but the file was missing. 

What is the proof found against Fareedan?

Mallikajaan and Nawab Zulfikar were made aware of the fact that Officer Cartwright was thinking of reopening the old case for Rehana’s death. Nawab and Mallikajaan had hidden the case file, and Waheeda was given the work of hiding it, and she claimed to have destroyed the file. To further implicate Fareedan and corner her, Nawab Zulfikar gathered evidence against her, which proved that, as a young woman, she had committed several murders and arson. Fareedan came back to Heeramandi in Lahore to evade arrests. Mallikajaan left no stone unturned in confronting Fareedan with these photographs and asked her to back off from going after her. 


Did Tajdar accept Alamzeb?

On the night of her first performance, Alamzeb ran away from Shahi Mahal, as she was informed by Fareedan that Tajdar’s letter stated he wanted to meet her at his home. Alamzeb assumed this move was his acceptance of her and her family. On reaching his residence, she learned Tajdar had never received her letter from Fareedan explaining her life and background. Freedman was trying to play cupid, but she had secretly hoped to hurt Alamzeb in this process to get back at Mallikajaan. 

Tajdar, who had joined the freedom movement at the behest of his friend Balbir and the leader Hamid, had a tough time accepting Alamzeb and her family’s background. Even though he let Alamzeb stay at his home as an acquaintance, he could finally see her for who she was—a young woman desperately wanting to thrive outside the walls of Heeramandi. He decided to ask her to stay back to get to know her, which led to them getting physically intimate eventually.


What was Bibbojaan’s real secret?

Bibbojaan was a freedom fighter, and she had begun to contribute to the freedom movement spearheaded by Hamid. Bibbojaan offered all the jewels given by Wali Mohammed to the freedom movement against the British. She also contributed all the money she made from singing and dancing. She was also a witness to Tajdar becoming serious about his involvement in the freedom struggle. She also began to seduce Officer Henderson in the hope of acquiring information about the plans the police had to tackle the menace of the rebels. 

Who released Alamzeb from jail?

Hamid and his men’s plan of action was to take the violent route to attract the attention of the British, but it went awry. Alamzeb, as a result, was arrested at Tajdar’s home. Tajdar, out of fear of retribution from his father and not wanting to face jail time, refused to take the blame for the attack, as he was one of the conspirators. Alamzeb was instead blamed for anti-national activities, and Tajdar did nothing to save her from jail time. Since Alamzeb had run away from Shahi Mahal, Mallikajaan was livid at her daughter for making a move against her wishes. Yet, on Bibbojaan’s insistence, Mallikajaan used her influence and money to get bail for Alamzeb, but she was sadly admonished and insulted for being a tawaif. The woman offered her body and allowed herself to be raped by men, along with the money, for the sake of her daughter’s dignity. Fareedan felt sorry and responsible for this event, as she wanted to destroy Mallikajaan’s pride and not be violated by men.


Did Tajdar’s family accept the wedding alliance?

Alamzeb revealed she was pregnant with Tajdar’s child, and Bibbojaan could sense he would keep her happy instead of playing by the rules of their world, where Nawab only married people of their community. Tajdar was affected by the news of Alamzeb’s pregnancy and agreed to marry her. He asked his grandmother Qudsia to accompany him to begin the rituals for their marriage, even though his father was against the alliance because of Alamzeb’s family background. Mallikajaan was, however, still affected by the aftermath of the arrest. However, the mother had accepted the marriage proposal on the condition that they would wait for the groom’s party on the next full moon night, and if they did not turn up, Alamzeb would make her debut performance as a dancer. 

What happened on Tajdar and Alamzeb’s wedding night?

On the night of Tajdar’s wedding with Alamzeb, his father informed the police about his son’s involvement in anti-national activities and had him arrested. However, this news never reached Heeramandi, and Alamzeb felt betrayed. Mallikajaan, however, had expected this and asked her daughter to begin her first dance as a courtesan. Fareedan was informed about Cartwright’s arrest of Tajdar and pleaded for the man’s release on account of his wedding night. 


Cartwright wanted confessions from Tajdar about his fellow freedom fighters, but the man refused to share even at Fareedan’s insistence. Minutes later, Tajdar was killed in police custody due to a blow to his head, and she informed Bibbojaan of the same. Alamzeb had to adhere to what her mother expected of her, which was to make her debut performance, but was devastated to learn Tajdar died out of his love for the land he was born on, and he never betrayed her or the movement he was dedicated to.

Why was Heeramandi boycotted?

As a result of Alamzeb’s depression after the death of Tajdar at the hands of British police, Mallikajaan decided to shelter the freedom fighters in the Shahi Palace. After the Tajdars’ deaths Officer Cartwright and Henderson were doing massive crackdowns which made it difficult for Hamid and his comrades to remain hidden. Since Shahi Mahal was a place where the police wouldn’t dare enter, Mallikajaan took it upon herself to offer food and shelter to the men who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the country’s independence. The matriarch was probably feeling guilty for misjudging Tajdar’s motives, which led to Alamzeb being introduced as a tawaif. Mallikajaan was a steadfast woman who would never back away from her words or actions once she was ready to trust the people who asked for help. 


As a result of Mallikajaan’s decision to allow the freedom fighters inside Heeramandi, the Nawabs and other local nobles decided to boycott the street and have refused to visit the place ever since. These men were aware that the income of Heeramandi thrived on the money they spent on the women. The cessation of this income would affect their daily lives, and this would force them to give up the freedom fighters to the British police out of pure desperation. Every Nawab who was ever attached to any of the courtesans of Heeramandi agreed to this decision, as supporting the freedom fighters would affect their power in the nation. These freedom fighters asked for full independence, which would mean people would have the power and these nobles would lose it as they were used to suppressing their population for generations. 

Did Alamzeb get her revenge?

Alamzeb’s visit to Tajdar’s grave helped her find closure, but she was still in rage about the way he was killed. Alamzeb was the coy one of the whole group of women in Shahi Mahal. She was not exposed to the harsh realities of life, just like her mother or sister, which made it difficult to believe she could do anything to get her revenge. Alamzeb was asked to bed Officer Cartwright and use that opportunity to kill him as an act of revenge. She was given the pistol to carry out the act, and she did it just minutes before he began to get intimate with her. Alamzeb got her revenge by killing Tajdar, the man who was trying to do the right thing for her and himself. She wanted to be as courageous as her sister, Bibbojaan, to take up weapons to kill people who wronged them. Cartwright’s death was a sign of rebellion, as he was responsible for killing many men and women, like Tajdar. This was her way to fight against the British Raj and their tyranny. 


Who killed Bibbojaan?

Bibbojan volunteered to kill Officer Henderson at a public meeting. Bibbojaan was the only person in the Shahi Mahal who openly spoke about wanting to enjoy freedom, and there was no one other than the courtesans who knew the value of it. Courtesans like her were never allowed to have the freedom to live on their terms, as society always judged them for their life choices.  As Bibbo stated, she wanted to breathe in a land that gave her the freedom to look beyond the life she currently had. Her fight against the British was essentially against the nobles, who were the allies of the foreigners and wanted people of certain strata to remain beneath them, never to be treated equally. Independence from the British would mean the hope of being treated equally with respect for their life choices.

Bibbo did the deed and was immediately arrested for the crime, and she was aware she could be killed. As a woman, she was willing to martyr herself for a greater cause. Her mindset had reached a stage where she was only willing to move forward towards death. As Bibbo was being taken to the death row, all the women from Heeramandi, including Fareedan, joined their march to save the only woman who fought for their freedom. Everyone received clarity on what Bibbo wanted for all of them in the long run. As Bibbo was killed by the firing squad for her role in killing a police officer of the British Raj, the women took it as the beginning of a revolution. 


The epilogue of the show stated that even though Bibbojan was killed by the then-tyrannical system of the British, the women of Heeramandi hoped it would be the first step towards the freedom of their country, which could give them a choice to live with dignity eventually. The irony remains in the fact that these women could only hope to be treated equally because years later, nothing had changed for women living on their terms. Society still looks down upon and restricts them and our society has a long way to go when it comes to accepting women for being themselves. 

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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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