SLB’s ‘Heeramandi’ triggers debate among Pak artistes on their own films

As India's ace director Sanjay Leela Bhansali gets ready to reveal the untold stories of Lahore's red light district, Heera Mandi...

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As India’s ace director Sanjay Leela Bhansali gets ready to reveal the untold stories of Lahore’s red light district, Heera Mandi, Pakistani artistes are questioning their own industry, maintaining that such stories should be narrated by Pakistani filmmakers.

Bhansali’s web series ‘Heeramandi’ is being presented and produced by the online streaming giant Netflix.

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“‘Heeramandi’ is an important milestone in my journey as a filmmaker,” Bhansali said. “This is an epic, first-of-its-kind series based on the courtesans of Lahore. It is an ambitious, grand and all-encompassing series; I am nervous yet excited about making it. I am looking forward to my partnership with Netflix and bringing ‘Heeramandi’ to audiences all over the world,” he added.

In Pakistan, the SLB movie is being anxiously awaited, even as Pakistani artistes are raising questions over the lack of realisation in the Pakistani film industry that such stories should be narrated by the country’s own filmmakers.

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“Heera Mandi is here in Lahore and the movie on this is being made by Indians,” said the Pakistani actor Yasir Hussain. “And then we will be criticising how Indians show false narratives. God knows when we will talk about such issues, when we will tell our stories,” he added.

“We don’t make movies on such issues because if we do, a fatwa will be issued and producers will lose their money,” said actress Hira Tareen. “Do you really think PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Regulatory Authority) can tolerate a narration of the ‘real’ stories of Heera Mandi or any other such subject?” she asked.

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Commented TV actress Mansha Pasha: “Inda is making a film on Lahore and the infamous Heera Mandi of the yesteryear because we live in a country where fictional narratives are often censored and everyone keeps arguing about what is or isn’t morally acceptable fiction.”

“Others name most of the opportunity taking up the stories that are native to our country, brand them and sell them to the rest of the world. In the end, what will be left will be our stories told from someone else’s mouth”, she added.

The Pakistani artistes are raising pertinent questions as the country’s conservative religious elements have in the past responded violently against any topic that would be of importance and been highlighted on the big screen.

This has certainly left filmmakers and producers from even thinking about narrating ‘real’ stories as they would become targets of hotheads rushing in to brand them as infidels.

–By Hamza Ameer

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