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Meena & me

Updated on: 16 April,2024 07:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mohar Basu |

Richa, who plays courtesan in Heeramandi, discusses drawing inspiration from Meena Kumari’s iconic role of Sahibjaan in Pakeezah

Meena & me

Richa Chadha in the period drama

Heeramandi is a special project for Richa Chadha as it reunites her with Sanjay Leela Bhansali after 11 years. It also made Chadha intimately familiar with another cinematic legend—the late Meena Kumari. Since Bhansali’s maiden web series tells the story of courtesans in Lahore, the creator recommended that she turn to Sahibjaan, Kumari’s iconic character from Pakeezah (1972), for inspiration.

A source reveals that Chadha modelled her Lajjo on Sahibjaan, after studying Kumari’s performance in the timeless movie as well as her other films. “Richa also went through multiple interviews of Meena Kumari, and watched her explain her craft. There was almost 50 hours of footage, including the actor’s rare interviews, and biographers talking about her. Her biographies, which provided an insight into her work, became an important reference point,” adds the source.

The Netflix series also stars Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Shaikh and Sharmin Segal, and looks at the lives of courtesans amid the freedom struggle. With the period drama, Chadha is proud to pay homage to Kumari. She says, “Studying Meena Kumari ji’s character in Pakeezah was a transformative experience for me. There is a certain depth and complexity to Sahibjaan that [is true of] Lajjo as well. I worked on the voice and diction while studying Meena ji’s work, sometimes to the point of imitation. It was an honour to pay tribute to the legend.”

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