Is ‘Shahi Mohalla’ Inspired by Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Heeramandi’?

Ever since Abu Aleeha’s next feature ‘Shahi Mohalla’ was announced, we wondered if it’s an extension of his previous release ‘Taxali Gate’ or an inspiration from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s recently released Netflix series ‘Heeramandi’. To have a clear understanding, we at Pakistani Cinema gave Aleeha a call for details.

“Heermandi is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision that is big and spectacular but not real. Taxali Gate was the story of actual people living in Heermandi. The film was a black comedy with an alternate perspective of how the respectable class deals with the people and victims of Heeramandi. But ‘Shahi Mohallah’ is different and ut has got nothing to do with these two projects”, Aleeha told Pakistani Cinema in an exclusive conversation.

Aleeha cleared the air and further said, “‘Shahi Mohalla’ is also the story of the people of Heeramandi. It is a reality-based story and a metaphor. It depicts the Pakistani society. The masses are victims, and the elites and establishment are the antagonists. ‘Shahi Mohalla’ is a small story connected with Lahore, but relevant and powerful.”

Speaking about the crux of ‘Shahi Mohalla’, he said, “The film will focus on how people living in that vicinity behaved with the commoners. And how the commoners dealt with the people of ‘Shahi Mohalla’, be it the musicians or prostitutes.”

Aleeha as the writer and director along with producer Hareem Farooq did extensive research and planning before finalizing the script. “We feel that if we succeed in making it exactly the way we have envisioned, ‘Shahi Mohalla’ will be a game changer for Pakistani cinema. We also plan to showcase the film across various international film festivals.”

According to Aleeha, no Pakistani filmmaker has tried to attempt a film on Shahi Mohallah on such a scale. He is confident that the film has the potential to standout and compete with the big-budget brainless comedies next year and emerge victorious at the box office. “The suspense element is injected all over in the script so viewers will get a lot of surprises. And to achieve that target, we need to shoot ‘Shahi Mohalla’ on merit.”

The casting of the film is in full swing. “We are in talks with big names, big names in terms of those who are suitable to the character. We have locked quite a few, we are negotiating with a lot of actors. There’s a powerful role of a young boy and girl, we are currently auditioning for it. We aim to give the industry a fresh new pair.”

Abu Aleeha is passionate about the music as it plays an integral part of the film. “We have the required resources to create soulful tracks. The music album will have many songs. Also, we plan to shoot them with a heavy dose of grandeur.”

The film is in the pre-production stage. “The complete cast will be announced in July and the shoot will commence in August. We aim to complete the film by December and send it to various international festivals. As far as the local release date is concerned, it will solely be the producer’s call.”

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Written by Ozair Majeed


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