Sanjay Leela Bhansali says he once considered Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas for Heeramandi

Sanjay Leela Bhansali says he once considered Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas for Heeramandi

The filmmaker spoke about the evolution of his new Netflix series, that was initially supposed to be a film, during its LA premiere.
01 May, 2024

Indian director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, known for his grandiose storytelling and larger than life sets, finally realised a dream of 20 years with the release of his Netflix series, Heeramandi. The series, that was initially conceptualised as a film, saw its fair share of casting considerations over the years, including Pakistani stars Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas.

During the premiere of his series in Los Angeles, a video of which is now circulating online, Bhansali walked YouTuber Lilly Singh through the evolution of the series — “This was 18 years ago, so at one point, it was Rekha ji, Kareena [Kapoor Khan] and Rani Mukerji. Then it changed into another cast, then it changed into another cast.”

He then surprised everyone with the revelation that Pakistani actors were also considered for Heeramandi. “At one point, it was also Mahira Khan, the Pakistani actor, then Fawad Khan and Imran Abbas. But then it all changed.”

The transformation of Heeramandi from a cinematic film to a Netflix series understandably altered its casting dynamics. Because let’s be honest, actors acquainted with a certain medium — be it film, TV or OTT — can’t be expected to perform equally well in other mediums.

Bhansali expressed satisfaction with the final cast of his series, who dedicated approximately 350 days to the project. “Popular actors” might not have managed such a commitment, he noted.

Abbas had previously said on ARY Digital’s Shaan-e-Suhoor, “I had not said no to Heeramandi but it got shelved.”

With Heeramandi, which debuted on Netflix today, Bhansali aims to explore the lives of courtesans in the pre-independence era, set against the rich cultural backdrop of Lahore. It promises to be ripe with drama, intrigue, and the emotional depth that Bhansali films are known for.


Ehsan May 01, 2024 06:17pm
How can they make a show about something that doesn’t even exist there
Taj Ahmad May 02, 2024 07:37am
Bollywood Indian producers, directors always looking for talented actors and actresses no matter where they finds them in India-Pakistan-Bangladesh or anywhere in the world they go for it and that’s the beauty of Bollywood.
Ron May 02, 2024 08:44am
This is my next Weekend catchup..Netflix is producing great India hits, and we can't find a single Pakistani production?
Rif May 03, 2024 12:06am
I think he didn't see the work of Bilal Abbas Khan
Dr Imran Hashmi. May 04, 2024 06:07am
Excellent job. However some actors have not made the effort to pronounce KH properly.
Black Hawk May 05, 2024 08:09pm
Pakistani actors & artists will not be working in India until the two countries have friendly ties which seems highly unlikely. Even if Congress or some other party instead of BJP comes to power in India, public sentiment & pressure will not allow it change policy toward Pakistan.
Steve May 05, 2024 11:17pm
I don’t enjoy watching movies about courtesans like in the style of ‘Umrao Jaan.’ However, I recognize that many people do like that type of content, and I respect their preferences. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the director, has worked on historical projects like ‘Devdas’ and others. However, people often criticize the authenticity and presentation in his films. He’s known for creating elaborate, larger-than-life scenes that can feel unrealistic. Many viewers watch his movies for the stunning sets, vibrant colors, and to escape into a different world. When I binge-watched all ten episodes of ‘Heeramandi’ on Netflix India, I kept this context in mind. Several experienced actors, including Manisha Koirala, Farida Jalal, Shekhar Suman, and Fardeen Khan, were part of this grand project. However, I noticed that, except for Manisha, the others appeared tired and uninterested. Considering their talent and the fact that they're among India's best character actors, it’s concerning when they lack enthusiasm for Bhansali’s vision. Manisha, who has portrayed courtesan roles in her career, made an effort to salvage whatever she could. As an Indian, my main concern with this project was the lack of a coherent narrative flow. Additionally, many of the younger actresses and actors appeared expressionless and struggled with their dialogues. While Pakistanis may rightfully critique the accents and representation of Lahore, I was mainly disappointed with the overall storytelling and lack of acting depth.