29th April 2024

Heeramandi cast — the full list

Let’s look at the ensemble cast of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Netflix series and the characters they play.

Akhil Arora, a member of the Film Critics Guild and a Rotten Tomatoes-certified film critic with over eight years of experience

Aditi Rao Hydari, Pratibha Ranta, Manisha Koirala, Sanjeeda Sheikh, and Richa Chadha in Heeramandi
Aditi Rao Hydari, Pratibha Ranta, Manisha Koirala, Sanjeeda Sheikh, and Richa Chadha in Heeramandi // Photo: Netflix

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is the creator, director, editor, and music composer of his debut miniseries Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, out May 1 on Netflix. The pre-independence drama centres on the world of courtesans—tawaifs, as they were known in Mughal culture—who were indulged by their wealthy royal patrons and known for their study of music, dance, and theatre. They were also the masters of etiquette. As such, suffixes are common in this universe. The courtesans are referred to as “jaan” while the elite nawabs—essentially viceroys who paid fealty to the Mughal emperor and later, the British Raj—are called “sahabs”. In Urdu, jaan refers to a loved one or a beloved, while sahab is like addressing someone as a sir or master.

Further reading: Heeramandi review: glossy TV soap opera

As tends to be the case for any Bhansali production, Heeramandi—named for the Lahore district it portrays—makes use of lavish sets and opulent costumes. The budget reportedly sits over ₹200 crore (about $24 million), which would make it the most expensive Indian streaming series to date. (Potentially topping the Ajay Devgn-led Rudra: The Edge of Darkness which cost just as much. If you just went “Rudra, what?” don’t worry, you’re not the only one who had never heard about it.) A large chunk of that is Bhansali’s fee—around a third of the budget, as per an individual familiar with the matter—and, of course, some of it went towards the extensive ensemble. With that, let’s look at the star-studded cast of Heeramandi.

Manisha Koirala, Mallika

The 53-year-old Koirala plays Mallikajaan, the self-styled queen of Heeramandi who rules Shahi Mahal, an elite house of courtesans.

Known for her grace, elegance, and deviousness, Mallika is always scheming and fears no one—not even Allah. But the return of her late nemesis’ daughter, Fareedan, shakes things up.

The power-hungry Mallika is also extremely controlling of her two daughters, Bibbo and Alamzeb, whom she sees as potential heirs to her throne.

Koirala has previously worked with Bhansali on his 1996 directorial debut, Khamoshi: The Musical. She was last seen in the Kartik Aaryan-led Shehzada. Heeramandi is her first series role.

Sonakshi Sinha and Manisha Koirala in Heeramandi
Sonakshi Sinha and Manisha Koirala in Heeramandi // Photo: Netflix

Sonakshi Sinha, Fareedan

The 36-year-old Sinha plays Fareedan, the daughter of Mallika’s late nemesis who renews the rivalry after her return.

Defined by her rage, anger, and the unfairness of her past, Fareedan seeks to avenge the wrong done to her mother and as such charts Mallika’s downfall with all her might.

“I have never played someone who is constantly seething and undoing the wrong done to her. She is borderline sadistic, but also a good person,” Sinha told mid-day.

Sinha’s 2012 film Rowdy Rathore was produced by Bhansali. She was last seen in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan alongside Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff. Heeramandi is her second series role, following Prime Video’s Dahaad.

Aditi Rao Hydari, Bibbo

The 37-year-old Rao Hydari plays Mallika’s elder daughter and Alamzeb’s elder sister, Bibbojaan, who quietly rebels. She leverages her position as a courtesan at Heeramandi to gather intel and fund the revolution.

Known for being kind and soft-hearted, Bibbo understands that beauty can be turned into a weapon. She is not afraid to do the deed herself, brandishing a revolver in the Heeramandi trailer.

“Where she’s born and who she possibly wants to be are [in] conflict. […] At a personal level, she’s unable to channel that because of the responsibility she feels towards her mother,” Rao Hydari told News18.

She worked with Bhansali on the 2018 film Padmaavat. Rao Hydari was last seen in the Vikramaditya Motwane miniseries Jubilee. She previously played the courtesan Anarkali in the Zee5 series Taj.

Sharmin Segal Mehta, Alamzeb

The 28-year-old Segal Mehta plays Mallika’s younger daughter and Bibbo’s younger sister, Alamzeb, who has no desire to be part of Heeramandi and wishes to break free.

A lover and a writer of poetry, Alam falls in love with the son of a nawab, Tajdar Baloch. That love is weaponised by Fareedan to serve her ends.

Sharmin Segal Mehta in Heeramandi
Sharmin Segal Mehta in Heeramandi // Photo: Netflix

Will Alam be successful in challenging century-old conventions? Or will her ambition and independence be put out like a flame?

Segal Mehta is Bhansali’s niece and served as an assistant director on three of his films: Bajirao Mastani, Gangubai Kathiawadi, and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. She was last seen opposite Pratik Gandhi in the Zee5 movie Atithi Bhooto Bhava. Heeramandi is her first series role.

Taha Shah Badussha, Tajdar Baloch

The 36-year-old Shah Badussha plays the son of a nawab, Tajdar Baloch, who falls in love with Alamzeb at first sight. This presents several challenges, including Alam’s station and his own principles.

To make things more complicated, Tajdar also finds himself embroiled in more violent matters. How will this young nawab deal with the conflicts in his path?

Shah Badussha was last seen in Kabzaa (credited as Taaha Shah). Heeramandi is his fourth series role, where he reunites with fellow Taj star Rao Hydari.

Richa Chadha, Lajjo

The 37-year-old Chadha plays Lajjo, one of the courtesans at Heeramandi. Lajjo is lovelorn “to a level that she isn’t afraid to make a scene”, Chadha told India TV.

On top of that, Lajjo has a drinking problem, with Chadha calling her a “female Devdas”. Hopeless and self-destructive, will Lajjo end up like Devdas or suffer a different fate?

Chadha previously worked with Bhansali on the 2013 film Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela. She was last seen in Fukrey 3. Heeramandi is her fourth main role in a series.

Sanjeeda Sheikh, Waheeda

The 39-year-old Sheikh plays Mallika’s younger sister, Waheeda, who’s also one of the courtesans at Heeramandi. Like Mallika and Fareedan, she craves power.

With her face scarred forever in a tragic incident and betrayed by broken promises, Waheeda seeks to reclaim what she believes to be rightfully hers. And she’s willing to cross any boundary to get it.

Sheikh was last seen in the Hrithik Roshan-led Fighter. She has a long line of credits on television, going back to 2006. Heeramandi is, however, her first streaming appearance.

Fardeen Khan in Heeramandi
Fardeen Khan in Heeramandi // Photo: Netflix

Fardeen Khan, Wali Mohammad

The 50-year-old Khan plays Wali Mohammad, one of the nawabs who shower the courtesans of Heeramandi with their patronage. His eye is usually on Bibbo.

Described as a true romantic and one who embodies what a nawab means, Wali may have no desire for power but he’s caught in the competing ambitions of the women of Heeramandi.

Khan returns to acting after a 14-year hiatus. He was last seen opposite Sushmita Sen in Dulha Mil Gaya. Heeramandi is his first series role.

The rest of the Heeramandi cast

In addition to the eight cast members discussed above, Heeramandi also has significant roles for Shekhar Suman (as Zulfikar), Farida Jalal (as Qudsia Begum), Indresh Malik (as Ustaad), Mark Bennington (as Samuel Henderson), Jason Shah (as Alastair Cartwright), Pratibha Ranta (as Waheeda’s daughter) and Adhyayan Suman (as Zorawar). But we don’t know enough about any of them to devote a section.

Akhil Arora

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