Waheeda In ‘Heeramandi’ Explained: Will Her Daughter, Shama Become The Queen Of Shahi Mahal?

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi takes you to pre-independence Lahore, where tawaifs, or courtesans, each have their own story to tell. They’re adorned in beautiful attire with ghungroos (ankle bells), jhumkas (earrings), and exquisite sarees, presenting themselves to lure nawabs and British officers. But you can tell that this glamour is only for show; what about their own happiness? What happens if they can’t fulfill their purpose as a courtesan? It’s a tale of shame and despair. In the grand Shahi Mahal of Heeramandi, Mallikajaan reigns supreme, and her sister Waheeda lives a life of misery. She’s been nothing but a slave to her sister and has tolerated torture and humiliation all her life, but she still believes in false promises. Sanjeeda Sheikh’s portrayal of Waheeda’s character makes you feel her pain; her life feels like a lie, without any real purpose. She’s constantly searching for meaning. How does she cope with it all? Let’s dive into her character analysis to find out.


Spoilers Ahead

How did Waheeda lose her beauty? 

Waheeda was Mallikajaan’s sister, the renowned courtesan ruling over Shahi Mahal in Heeramandi. However, Waheeda knew that Mallika’s power wasn’t earned easily. She had seized it by murdering the previous owner, Rehana Aapa, Mallikajaan’s master. See, Rehana Aapa had heartlessly sold Mallikajaan and Nawab Zulfikar’s son for a hefty sum of money and jewels. So, Mallika was bound to seek revenge, and with Zulfikar’s help, she murdered Rehana Aapa and staged it to look like suicide by hanging her from the ceiling. The only ones who knew the truth were Rehana Aapa’s daughter, Fareeda, and Waheeda, Mallikajaan’s sister. When the police gathered evidence against Mallikajaan, Zulfikar bribed them to cover it up. But Waheeda was determined to use this situation to her advantage. Actually, she wanted ownership of “Khawabgah,” another building previously owned by Rehana Aapa, from Nawab Sammi Sahab. This way, she could become a brothel owner like her sister, not to outshine her but to reign alongside her in Heeramandi. But neither Zulfikar nor Mallika wanted this. When she threatened to confess everything to the police if they didn’t sign the papers, Zulfikar reacted violently. He snatched the pen from her hand, slashing it across her cheek, leaving a permanent mark on her once beautiful face. From then on, she hid behind a dupatta, covering her disfigured cheek. This humiliation fueled her inner anger and desire for revenge. She knew she had to get even. 


What happened to Khawabgah? 

As they say, things are easier said than done. Life became really tough for Waheeda. She became nothing more than a slave to Mallikajaan. Because of her disfigured face, she couldn’t charm the nawabs or officers like before. They didn’t like her anymore, and she felt useless. People at Shahi Mahal treated her so badly that sometimes they even suspected her of stealing jewels and other valuable things. She wasn’t respected by anyone anymore. Once, she managed to attract a nawab sahab, but even her own daughter took advantage of her beauty and stole him away from her mother. Feeling frustrated, Waheeda tried to make her daughter less appealing by binding her chest with clothes so men wouldn’t be interested in her. It wasn’t out of revenge, just desperation because of all the mental trauma she was going through, and she tried to take it out on her own daughter. Despite losing her beauty and love, Waheeda still held onto the hope of owning Khawabgah. Mallikajaan had promised to give it back to her in court, but even after five years, there was still no sign she would ever keep her promise. She kept daydreaming about it. Then one day, Fareeda, Rehana Aapa’s daughter, returned. Mallika knew Fareeda would want to own Khawabgah, so she went to court to claim it. Eventually, they won the case. Waheeda thought her dream had finally come true, but Mallikajaan only gave her ownership of Khawabgah for one day. The next day, she handed it over to Nawab Sammi’s widow, claiming it was rightfully hers. Waheeda felt betrayed once again, but she was glad to see Sammi’s wife return it to Fareeda. She knew this would cause conflict between Mallikajaan and Fareeda, as Shahi Mahal and Khawabgah had a history of internal wars. But seeing her sister feel agitated made her feel happy about it, and honestly it was justified.

How Did Fareedan Betray Waheeda? 

Poor Waheeda has been betrayed all her life, even by those she loved and trusted the most. Now, she’s lost faith in everyone. She’s given up on her dream of owning Khawabgah. Instead, she wants Fareeda’s help to bring down Mallikajaan, knowing Fareeda knows Mallikajaan murdered her mother, Rehana. Mallika thought all the evidence against her was gone, but Waheeda had held on to it and now gave it to Fareeda for justice. But here’s the twist: Fareeda knows Mallika has dirt on her too, about all the nawabs she’s murdered in the past. So, she burns the evidence against Mallika to show she doesn’t want to fight her. She hands the file back to Waheeda. Now, Waheeda realizes Mallika will know she’s against her. So, in desperation, she goes to beg her sister for forgiveness, knowing she has nowhere else to go. She feels completely alone and blinded by her need for revenge, forgetting any kindness Mallika might have shown her. But the truth is, Mallika hasn’t really been kind. She’s treated Waheeda like a servant, giving her only food and clothes in exchange for her work. Waheeda feels powerless because people always take advantage of her innocence and trust. Waheeda has been pushed around for so long, and now she doesn’t know what to do. She begs Mallika to take her back to Shahi Mahal, knowing she has nowhere else to go. 


What Will Happen To Shama?

We see that ultimately, Mallika, surprisingly, shows mercy to Waheeda. She promises to make Waheeda’s daughter, Shama, the future leader of Shahi Mahal instead of her own daughters. Finally, Waheeda makes peace with this decision. It’s not what Waheeda wanted, but at least Shama will have a chance to fulfill her dreams. And with that, she lets go of her desire for revenge and accepts her fate.

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Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka, a devoted movie enthusiast, embarked on her cinematic journey since childhood, captivated by the enchanting world of the Harry Potter series. This early passion ignited her love for movies, providing an escape into the magical realms of cinema. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in media science, combining her academic pursuits with her unwavering passion for the silver screen.

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