Sanjay Leela Bhansali Says ‘Women Standing In Line For Ration’ Don’t Fascinate Him, Tawaifs Do

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose web series ‘Heeramandi’ is currently streaming on Netflix, has frequently shown courtesan or sex workers in his films. Whether Madhuri Dixit in ‘Devdas’ or Alia Bhatt in ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ or now Mallika Jaan, Fareedan and others in ‘Heeramandi,’ this recurring presence is a testament to Bhansali’s fascination with these enigmatic women. 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s fascination with courtesans

In a recent interview with Galatta Plus, Bhansali spoke about his deep-seated interest in portraying courtesans in his films. “I feel they are women who have a lot of enigma, a lot of mystery. The courtesan, or the tawaif, or the prostitute… they are different. But they always exude a certain kind of power which I find very interesting to look at… I found that very fascinating, that these women are very interesting. Where they sing, they dance. Where they express themselves; their joy and their grief in music and dance. They understand the art of living, the importance of architecture, the use of fabric, and the kind of jewellery they wear. They are connoisseurs of art,” he said. 

‘Middle class housewives do not interest me’

Bhansali elaborated on his artistic vision and personal influences, saying, “Hum log kya hein? Hum log artist log hain. Usko ap samajhgir bolo, bhand bolo… jo chahe bolo. Mere ko to woh chahiye. I have to create something that is very enigmatic. As a child, all those people that would pass by… mein school mein jaata hu toh ye chehre mujhe fascinate karte he. Waha pe jo ration ki line mein jo chaar middle-class housewives khade hain woh mujhe fascinate nahi karti (Who are we? We are artists. Whatever you might call them, I still need them. When I used to go to school, I was fascinated by those faces. Those four middle-class women in the ration line do not interest me).” 

The director also acknowledged the influence of iconic actresses and filmmakers on his work. He cited Madhubala in ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ and Nargis Dutt in ‘Adaalat’ as significant inspirations. Additionally, Bhansali mentioned being profoundly influenced by the films of V Shantaram and Ritwik Ghatak’s ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara.’ 

About Heeramandi 

In ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar’, Sanjay Leela Bhansali explores the life of tawaifs in Lahore’s Heera Mandi during the Indian independence struggle. The show stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sanjeeda Sheikh, and Sharmin Sehgal among others. 

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