Heeramandi – The Diamond Bazaar: Ending Explained (In Detail)

What happens in the battle between Mallikajaan and Fareedan? What is the outcome of the events happening outside Heeramandi?
Heeramandi – The Diamond Bazaar: Ending Explained (In Detail)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has spoken about how Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar is a project that dates back to the times of Devdas (2002), when Moin Beg brought him the idea of the courtesans of pre-Independence Lahore. After a long gestation period that involved Bhansali directing seven features, Heeramandi finally came to life in 2021 with an announcement that it would be a show, not a film. It would also stream on Netflix, marking the larger-than-life filmmaker’s first foray into the medium.

To play the courtesans of his lavishly-mounted show, Bhansali has on board Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sanjeeda Shaikh, and Sharmin Segal, with key supporting characters played by Shekhar Suman, Fardeen Khan, Adhyayan Suman, Taha Shah Badussha, and veteran Farida Jalal.

The World of Heeramandi

The setting of Bhansali’s show is “inspired” by a real locality in Lahore which is said to have been the city’s hub of courtesans (referred to in the show as tawaifs) and sex workers (largely referred to in the show derogatorily). Each “house” in Heeramandi has a chief courtesan, equal parts guardian to and commander of the other courtesans in the same dwelling.

Shahi Mahal is one such house, and in the 1920s-set prologue of Heeramandi, it is under the charge of Rehanajaan (Sinha), who rules over the place with tyrannical rigidity, showing little concern for even young Mallika (Abha Ranta), whose newborn child she palms off to an heirless landlord. As Rehanajaan’s reign gets more grating, Mallika decides to kill her. The task accomplished, she seeks the assistance of her lover, a young Nawab Zulfikar (Adhyayan), who gets the Lahore Police to drop the murder charges against her. Free of Rehanajaan’s clutches, Mallika becomes the new overlord of Shahi Mahal, christening herself Mallikajaan.

The majority of the show is set in the mid-1940s: Mallikajaan (Koirala) has grown older but no less dictatorial, and all those within the confines of Shahi Mahal toe the line she espouses. The rule applies equally to her daughters: Bibbojaan (Hydari), a covert freedom fighter, and Alamzeb (Segal), a young poet. Mallikajaan’s younger sister Waheedajaan (Shaikh) is also made to follow the rules of the Mahal, though she does so grudgingly and only in the hope of receiving the property known as Khwabgah, which in under litigation and which Mallikajaan had promised to her as a reward for keeping the secret of Rehanajaan’s murder. (Waheedajaan was the one of two witnesses.) Fareedan (also played by Sinha), Rehanajaan’s daughter, was the other witness; Mallikajaan sold her off to a patron much before she came of age to avoid further conflict.

Shahi Mahal is also home to Lajjo (Chadha), a courtesan who Mallikajaan took under her wing, though she is now usually under the influence of liquor after being snubbed by her lover Nawab Zorawar (also played by Adhyayan), one of the handful of poorly-etched male characters in the world of Heeramandi. Others are a middle-aged Zulfikar (Shekhar), a wastrel of a man who enacts intercourse with a carriage window in his worst state but continues to patronise Mallikajaan; there is also Tajdar Baloch (Badussha), heir to a title who believes in abolishing the aristocracy and fighting for independence. Nawab Wali Mohammed (Khan) is Bibbojaan’s patron and lover, and Englishmen Cartwright (Jason Shah) and Henderson (Mark Bennington) represent the cruel colonialists.

The Transformation of Heeramandi

At the end of episode 2, the alcoholic Lajjo dies, and as her funeral procession departs Shahi Mahal, Mallikajaan is confronted by a familiar face. As she says, ‘Hoo ba hoo, Rehana aapa.’ (‘The spitting image of Rehana aapa.’) Fareedan has returned to Heeramandi, and she has forgotten none of what took place a decade-and-a-half ago. Her intention is not only to avenge her mother but to rob Mallikajaan of her hubris and reputation, and her brief exchange with the older woman is a warning.

Rattled, Mallikajaan announces Bibbojaan’s final performance on the same night as Fareedan’s debut, thus driving away Wali Mohammed, who seeks refuge in Fareedan’s house despite her debut having been a disaster. The loss of her lover and patron drives Bibbojaan to participate more in the freedom struggle, and she donates all her jewellery to the cause.

Meanwhile, a romance is brewing between the Alamzeb (whose inexpressiveness is counterproductive to the art she proclaims a love for) and Tajdar, who is slowly transforming into an agitator against British rule. Fareedan, who has found an ally in Cartwright, decides to use Alamzeb in her plot against Mallikajaan and tricks her into running away with Tajdar. Faced with few options, the young aristocrat agrees to shelter his lover. At a party Tajdar throws to win the trust of the British, Fareedan, who has accompanied Cartwright, discovers a plot against the British and informs them. Tajdar gets away and the British arrest Alamzeb instead. With Tajdar unable to help her because of his dedication to the cause of freedom and Alamzeb refusing to give a false confession, Mallikajaan arrives to negotiate with Cartwright, who assaults and abuses her instead.

The torture faced by Mallikajaan rattles all of Heeramandi, including Fareedan, and she reconciles with the older woman. When Bibbojaan meets Tajdar at a covert conference of rebels later, she reveals to him that Alamzeb is pregnant with his child. She urges him to marry her younger sister, and Mallikajaan consents to the same with the condition that should Tajdar not arrive for the ceremony on the appointed day, Alamzeb will be made to debut as a courtesan.

Tajdar’s father (Ujjwal Chopra) betrays him to the British, who take him into custody on the day of his wedding. Despite knowing the plot that the British have cooked up, Mallikajaan forces Alamzeb to perform. Tajdar, who suffers tremendous torture at the hands of Cartwright, dies in custody, and the news destroys Alamzeb.

The Rebellious Courtesans

Incensed at the actions of the British, Mallikajaan opens the doors of Shahi Mahal to rebels, which leads to Heeramandi being boycotted by the Nawabs and other aristocrats, who view being pro-British as a necessity to maintain their position in society, which would be threatened in an independent country.

Bibbojaan, the only courtesan to have openly questioned the power of the British over the lives of her people, volunteers to kill Henderson at a public meeting, an act that is likely to bring death upon her own head.

Even as Bibbojaan is brought before a firing squad to be executed, the women of Heeramandi flood the streets of Lahore in protest, willing to take the fight to the British if required. Elsewhere, a grief-stricken Alamzeb embarks upon an act of vengeance by bedding Cartwright and, when the opportunity presents itself, shooting him dead.

When Bibbojaan is fired upon by her executioners, the women of Heeramandi decide to turn their march of protest into a call of rebellion against the Raj and its supporters, suggesting that winds of change have come about, and a new dawn beckons for the oppressed across classes and sections of society.

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