Sanjay Leela Bhansali says tawaifs fascinate him, not ‘women standing in line for ration’ | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Sanjay Leela Bhansali says tawaifs fascinate him, not ‘women standing in line for ration’

By | Edited by Santanu Das
May 18, 2024 02:59 PM IST

Sanjay Leela Bhansali opened up about the recurring presence of the figure of ‘tawaifs’ in his works. Even Heeramandi depicts the lives of courtesans.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali keeps coming back to the figure of the courtesans, sex workers in his films. From Rani Mukerji in Saawariya to Madhuri Dixit in Devdas, Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi, and now in Heeramandi, the presence has almost always been there. In a new interview with Galatta Plus, the director opened up about his fascination with this specific figure in his works so far. (Also read: Sonakshi Sinha says she apologised to Manisha Koirala after Heeramandi: ‘How have I done this? Meri majaal kaha se aayi’)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Heeramandi released on Netflix. (Photo by SUJIT JAISWAL / AFP)(AFP)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Heeramandi released on Netflix. (Photo by SUJIT JAISWAL / AFP)(AFP)

What Sanjay said

During the conversation, Sanjay said, “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 jewelery they wear. They are connoisseurs of art.”

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He further continued, "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)."

Bhansali also spoke about his influence from Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam, and Nargis Dutt in Adaalat. He also said that he was influenced by the films of V Shantaram, and particularly Meghe Dhaka Tara by Ritwik Ghatak.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Netflix series, Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, was released on Netflix on May 1. The series features Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, and others in pivotal roles. The series explores the cultural reality of Heeramandi, a dazzling district, through the stories of courtesans and their patrons set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s.


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