From Heeramandi to Mughal-e-azam, take a look at these memorable Bollywood movies based on the lives of courtesans

Publish Date: 21 Feb, 2023
From Heeramandi to Mughal-e-azam, take a look at these memorable Bollywood movies based on the lives of courtesans


Sanjay Leela Bhansali recently dropped a teaser of his awaited upcoming show ‘Heeramandi’, starring Bollywood's gorgeous divas like Manisha Koirala, Aditi rao Hydari, Sonakshi Sinha and more. Fans are surprised to see the grandeur and royalty shown in the teaser.

The courtesans were talented artists who used to form relationships with royal patrons. Ahead of Bhansali’s masterpiece, let us take you to a bollywood tour who portrayed the story of courtesans.

Gangubai Kathiawadi

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi starring Alia Bhatt in the lead, was released on 25th February, 2022. The actress played the role of a girl from an opulent family who is sold into prostitution. She then rises to own a brothel with the help of the underworld and gets rights and protection for the prostitutes. The film also stars Ajay Devgn, Shantanu Maheshwari, Seema Pahwa and Vijay Raaz. The film is based on the life of Gangubai Kothewali and ‘Mafia Queens of Mumbai’.


Another Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s hit ‘Devdas’ remains one of his top notch movies. The film was released on 12th July, 2002, and starred Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, among other actors. Madhuri Dixit played the role of Chandramukhi, a courtesan who falls in love with Dev (SRK), who belonged to an esteemed family. 


Begum Jaan 

Released on 14th April, 2017 starring Vidya Balan, Pallavi Sharda, Gauahar Khan, Mishti Chakraborty, Ila Arun, and Chunky Panday, ‘Begum Jaan’ is the story of eleven prostitutes who refused to part ways with their kotha and each other during the partition of India and Pakistan. 

Umrao Jaan

Directed by Muzaffar Ali, ‘Umarao Jaan’ is a 1982 film starring Rekha, who played a girl named Amiran, kidnapped from her family in Faizabad and sold to Khanum Jaan, the madam of a brothel in Lucknow who teaches young courtesans. Amiran was renamed Umrao Jaan, and turned into a woman who gracefully captivated men of wealth and taste.



Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah was released in 1972, and Meena Kumari played the part of Sahib Jaan, who wants to escape the brothel in which she was brought up. But, when Salim Ahmed Khan (Raaj Kumar) hears her sing and dance, he falls in love with her. Even after knowing about her past, Salim leaves his family to be with Sahibjaan.



Directed by K Asif, the masterpiece was released in 1960, even loved by people today. Anarkali (Madhubala), a courtesan, is presented to the prince Salim (Dilip Kumar). The two fall in love with each other but Salim’s father tries every means to keep the two apart. 

Their love affair not only leads to a war between the father-son, but also leads to Anarkali’s downfall with heartbreak, and self-destruction.


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