Working with Bhansali is like teaming up with Guru Dutt: Shekhar Suman on ‘Heeramandi’

- April 30, 2024
| By : Santosh Mehta |

From his son’s role selection to nostalgic anecdotes from the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s first-ever web-series, the actor opens up about his latest project and cherished moments from Delhi

EXPERIENCED: Shekhar Suman has been working in the film industry for the last 38 years. He retains connect with Delhi through his sister who lives in south Delhi PHOTO: GETTY

Renowned Bollywood actor Shekhar Suman, celebrated for a career marked by stellar performances in numerous hit films, is embarking on a fresh chapter with the highly anticipated web-series, Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar.

Suman’s journey in the glitzy world of Indian cinema commenced with the classic Utsav, where his talent first shone alongside the luminous Rekha. Produced by the iconic Shashi Kapoor, this milestone project set the stage for Suman’s remarkable ascent in the Bollywood firmament.

Not merely confined to the silver screen, Suman has charmed audiences across mediums. His stint as the charismatic host of the popular television show Bigg Boss 16 garnered widespread acclaim, underscoring his multifaceted appeal beyond cinema. From hosting notable programs like Movers & Shakers to showcasing his musical prowess with the heartfelt ballad collection Kuch Khwaab Aise, composed by the revered Aadesh Shrivastava, Suman has consistently captivated audiences with his versatility.

With a repertoire that spans from the silver screen to the small screen and now to the digital realm, Suman’s magnetic presence remains unmissable. 

Now, alongside his son, Adhyayan Suman, Shekhar Suman is set to captivate audiences once again in Heeramandi, a magnum opus helmed by visionary filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. This ambitious web-series promises to transport viewers to a world of intrigue and opulence, where Suman’s portrayal as a Nawab is poised to be a highlight.

As the eagerly awaited web-series prepares to dazzle audiences on Netflix from May 1, Suman gets candid in an interview with Patriot.


Q. What kind of role are you playing in ‘Heeramandi’?

A. In Heeramandi, I portray the character of Zulfikar, the formidable head of a princely state. As a Nawab, I establish my own rules, as reflected in my dialogue: “Zulfikar apne kanoon khud banata hai, woh kisi ka kanoon nahi manta” (Zulfikar makes his own laws, he doesn’t abide by anyone else’s). However, I can’t reveal too much, lest it diminishes the excitement of watching it.

Q. Tell us about the cast

A. Heeramandi boasts a stellar cast including acclaimed actors and actresses such as Manisha Koirala, Richa Chadha, Sonakshi Sinha, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Sharmin Segal, Aditi Rao Hydari, and Fardeen Khan, among others. I am also privileged to share the screen with my son, Adhyayan Suman, who is making his mark in this web-series.

Q. What is the story of Heeramandi?

A. Heeramandi, translating to “Diamond Bazaar”, delves into the intricate world of Tawaif culture. Manisha Koirala’s character holds the reins of Heeramandi, making pivotal decisions about who stays and who goes. Though set in Pakistan (Lahore), the film primarily explores this theme, offering a captivating narrative surrounding the diamond district.

FATHER-SON DUO: Adhyayan Suman, son of Shekhar Suman, also features in Heeramandi

Q. Where have you guys shot for Heeramandi?

A. It is predominantly shot in Mumbai, with Sanjay Leela Bhansali orchestrating grand sets in Mumbai’s film city. The ambitious project spanned two years, owing to its extensive cast and intricate storyline. While the majority of filming took place in Mumbai, some scenes were also captured in Lucknow.

Q. Is it the first time you’re working alongside Adhyayan Suman?

A. No, I previously collaborated with him in my home production film Heartless, featuring the late Om Puri and Deepti Naval. However, Heeramandi marks another opportunity for us to share the screen together. What kind of response have you received after ‘Heeramandi’s’ poster got released in Delhi?
The release of ‘Heeramandi’s’ poster at the prestigious Taj Palace in Delhi elicited an overwhelming response from fans and audiences alike. The anticipation and excitement surrounding the project were palpable, even at the mere unveiling of the poster. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s meticulous attention to detail, from elaborate costumes to stunning jewellery, combined with the compelling narrative and ensemble cast, has left fans eagerly awaiting the film’s release.

Q. Are you working on any other project besides Heeramandi?

A. Yes, I have several projects and scripts in the pipeline, but for now, my focus is on the imminent release of Heeramandi. Once that’s underway, I’ll turn my attention to those projects.

Q. How would you describe Bhansali and what was your experience working with him?

A. Working with Bhansali is akin to collaborating with cinematic legends like Kamaal Amrohi, Guru Dutt, and K Asif, who crafted masterpieces like Mother India and Mughal-E-Azam. Bhansali shares the same calibre and cinematic vision, evident in his meticulous attention to detail and storytelling prowess.
It’s been an enriching experience to collaborate with such a distinguished director. Bhansali’s deep understanding of cinema, coupled with his clear communication and unwavering confidence in his actors, fosters a creatively charged environment on the set. I feel privileged to be a part of his vision.

Q. Will Heeramandi be released as a feature film in the future?

A. Absolutely. I believe Heeramandi has the potential to be released as a feature film later on. The production style lends itself seamlessly to the big screen experience.

Q. Is it true that Sanjay Leela Bhansali turned down the role for Adhyayan Suman?

A. No, that’s a misconception. Sanjay Leela Bhansali did not turn down Adhyayan Suman for any role. Adhyayan auditioned for the part and was selected based on his merit, prompting an immediate offer from Bhansali.

Q. Do you think using social media platforms is a good opportunity for actors?

A. Absolutely, social media platforms offer a fantastic opportunity for actors to connect with their audience and raise awareness about various projects and initiatives.

KEY ROLE: Shekhar Suman portrays the role of Zulfikar, head of a princely state, in the upcoming web-series Heeramandi

Q. Do you love to act in theatre?

A. Theatre is my first love. I cherish the experience of acting in various plays. My training at the Shri Ram Centre, New Delhi, instilled in me a deep appreciation for the stage. The live aspect of theatre enhances my confidence and hones my acting skills.

Q. Any Delhi memories!

A. Delhi holds a trove of cherished memories for me. From my college days at Delhi University to cruising on my motorbike with friends, every moment was filled with excitement. Staying with my uncle in Moti Bagh, catching bus no. 10 from the central secretariat, and indulging in butter chicken at Pandara Road are memories that still bring a smile to my face.

Q. Any interesting places in Delhi which you still remember!

A. Oh, there are plenty! Exploring places like Janpath on my trusty motorbike was always an adventure. The entire cityscape of Delhi is captivating. I have fond memories of living in the Green Park area, and Vasant Kunj holds a special place as my sister’s abode.