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Mitakshara Kumar is not the series director for The Empire series but she’s also one of the episodic directors on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus series Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar. Bollywood Bubble recently interacted with the filmmaker to discuss the show, the love and criticism it’s receiving and her experience working with SLB once more.

During the exclusive chat, Kumar got candid about the creative freedom she received while bringing Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision to life. She also spoke about her favourite scenes for the show and which scene of hers faced the scissors on the editor’s table. While talking about all this, Mitakshara also revealed ‘Bibbojaan’ Aditi Rao Hydari and ‘Wali Sahab’ Fardeen Khan had an emotional breakup but it didn’t make the cut. Rea don’t know how it played.

Mitakshara on the creative freedom she got

Talking about the creative freedom she received while directing Heermandi, Mitakshara Kumar said, “Unlike some of the other additional directors – who were given a chance by (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) sir and they did a few scenes and sir used to always monitor them as to what is happening… But in Vibhu Puri and my case, it was not like that because both of us already had some work behind us. So I think sir had that much faith in us.”

Mitakshara added, “Of course, we would discuss our scenes with him as the overall vision had to be one person – you can’t have three different people shooting three different scenes/things as per their sensibility. Thankfully, my sensibility is very similar to Sanjay sirs. My aesthetics and attention to detail are very similar to his – that’s why  I’ve been working with him for 9 years.”

She continued, “With Vubhu and me, sir had that much faith. He would tell us, ‘This is the scene.’ We knew the main arch, we knew the characters. Sir had already shot his pilot episode so we knew what graph he was setting, what flavours he was setting, what pace he was setting – so we had to shoot, we had to maintain that. Within the framework of his vision, we were free to explore our own interpretation.”

Mitakshara Kumar reveals her favourite Heeramandi scenes

Talking about her favourite scenes from the 140-150 she shot, Mitakshara Kuamr says, “I’ll give you 2-3 examples because they were very challenging.” Elaborating on the scenes, she adds, “The entire Vali party was a very challenging setup for me because it was broken into different different scenes.Like, first Sonakshi (Sinha) and Aditi (Rao Hydari) are with Fardeen (Khan), then Fareedan (Sonakshi) goes and meets Alamzeb (Sharmin Segal) and then Alamzeb goes and meets Tajdar (Taha Shah Badusha) and then Fareedan meets Tajdar… It was a huge sequence. I had 102 degree fever when I was directing that. I was coughing non-stop. Sir was there on the first day because I was really unwell, the shooting went on for 3.5 days.”

Talking about her other favourite scene, Kumar said, “The climax is one of my most favourite. Shooting the climax of a series like this is a very, very, very challenging task. All the stories have to come together. So I can’t say one scene of the climax cause it was the whole sequence. Like Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari) getting tortured, Alamzeb (Sharmin Segal) going and killing Cartwright (Jason Shah), the women arriving at the wall when Bibbojaan is going to be executed… That entire sequence is very close to my heart.”

Mitakshara on adding a scene

She continued, “There is a file-burning scene that is very special to me as it was one of the first scenes I shot. That scene Sir actually got a little upset with me because I went off script over there. The file wasn’t supposed to be burnt by Waheeda (Sanjeeda Sheikh) in the end but at that moment I felt that was the right thing to do. I used to always discuss my scenes with Sir beforehand ki this is how I want to treat it, but for some reason – I think he was shooting night shifts at that time and was shooting day shifts, I couldn’t speak to him. But I was so convinced about that scene and giving Waheeda that closure.”

She continued, “I said, ‘Chalo, yeh karte hain.’ It’s an important sequence, Waheeda wanting revenge on Mallikajaan. And it had to end on a high. And it ended on a high when she felt everyone had backstabbed me. So it’s not the file burning, it is her desire to get revenge also burning. It is her soul burning… So I made her burn the file. Sir was like, ‘This is not what was written.’ I was like, ‘Sir, ek baar aap edit pe dheklo. I really feel it will work.’ Once he saw it, he agreed. In fact, he patted me on the back and said this scene is 99% there.”

Mitakshara Kumar on Bibbojaan-Wali Sahab’s breakup scene in Heeramandi

Mitakshara Kumar revealed only one of her scenes was edited from the show. Wondering which? Well, the Heeramandi episodic director said, “There was one scene of mine that got cut but I think it was more because of the length (of the episode).” She elaborates, “It was a very beautiful break-up scene between Wali Sahab (Fardeen Khan) and Bibbojaan (Aditi Rao Hydari). I think because of the length of the episode, it probably got cut. That’s the only scene of mine that did not make it to the edit, the rest of everything is there.”

When told that fans would have loved to see that ‘love story’ get closure, the filmmaker says, “It was beautiful, a very nice scene because we are talking about the women and their heartbreak and here there was a man who said, ‘Aaj pata chala Heera mandi mein sirf tawaiff ke nahi Nawabo ke dil bhi toothe hai’ (Today I got to know not only courtesans but the patron’s hearts break too). It was a very beautiful scene, and Sir actually loved that … Sometimes we have shot so much that at times you have to cut things with a heavy heart. “

Stay tuned to Bollywood Bubble for more such exclusive content.

Also Read: EXCLUSIVE: Mitakshara Kumar on Cannes 2024 being more about fashion than movies; says “Want to know about films winning, not criticising clothing choices”

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