Kaafir: Can terrorism, prejudice and soulmate love mix?

Kaafir (Zee5, 2019) is a web series that was originally broadcasted on a popular Indian digital platform two years ago. However, its beautifully complex story has a timeless quality to it and I found its themes and messages ring so true when I watched it recently.

Kainaaz Akhtar, a Pakistani woman based in Kashmir tries to commit suicide after being painfully and brutally rejected by her husband, and finds herself swept ashore to the riverbanks in Jammu, India. Although she had inadvertently crossed the border, she is presumed to be a militant and is thrown into jail as she’s unable to pay the fine for illegally entering the country. Seven years later, Vedant Rathore, an Indian lawyer-turned-crime-journalist for a local television network, discovers Kainaaz and her story and wants to seek justice for her and her 6-year-old daughter, Sehar.

Kaafir covers several important themes that should strongly resonate with South Asian communities as well as global audiences who would be interested to contemplate on:

  • How the elusive promise of Kashmiri freedom is leaving in its wake a vehement, visible sense of psychological trauma and frustration faced by both the Kashmiri Hindu and Muslim communities who reside in this perturbed region.
  • The loosely-hidden Jihadist agenda of trying to “capture India”;
  • How human interest news stories in Indian journalism generate more Television Rating Points (TRPs) because of the so-called “emotional connect” and are often superimposed over strongly relevant crime/terrorism/hard news stories which are actually in the public interest;
  • The possibility of a woman being both a terrorist and a mother, although Kainaaz isn’t actually a militant;

Dishita Jain as Sehar

Little Dishita Jain Plays Seher Akhtar In ZEE5 Original Kaafir - Zee5 News

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As someone who was born and raised in the Western world, I have always experienced a blend between diaspora Indian and Pakistani community life. The fact that these communities are labels that carry such strong negative connotations in South Asia only came to my understanding when I started watching films and shows around this subject matter.

Seeing Vedant struggle to find a lawyer to take on Kainaaz’s case, because he did not want to return to practicing law due to his own personal trauma of losing his brother, startled me. None of the Indian lawyers wanted to take on her case because she’s a “Pakistani” and taking on her case would lead to them losing their reputations and even livelihoods. Vedant is forced to quit his broadcast journalist job and take on Kainaaz’s case himself.

Dia Mirza as Kainaaz Akhtar 

What Is Good For People Has To Be Good For The Planet: Dia Mirza - Forbes  India

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Vedant faces backlash against his father and family for going out of his way to support a Pakistani, when it was a Pakistani who had taken his brother’s life. Vedant was at pains to explain that if they could look at Kainaaz as a human being, as a traumatised woman, who also happens to be a single mother wanting to go back to her home country and it wasn’t she who had taken his brother’s life. But it all falls on deaf ears. However, a resolution to this subplot does happen towards the end of the web series, which hopefully is educative to the audience.

This makes us question our tendency to label and negatively stereotype roles and races. Just because Kainaaz is Pakistani, doesn’t mean that she should be automatically labelled as a “militant” or a “terrorist”. When Vedant seeks to get her the justice that she deserves, he spells all this out in an impactful courtroom speech.

Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore

kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, vedant rathore, indian lawyer, indian journalist

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This brings me quite organically in describing Vedant’s characterisation which has been impeccably essayed by one of India’s finest actors, Mohit Raina. If I come across as effusive in praise, it’s because I personally and professionally reckon he deserves it. Noted film theorists have stated that the mark of a truly worthy actor is when spectators forget about the “star” qualities of these actors and immerse into the characters that they are essaying. Mohit’s version of Vedant is just that. On the face of it, Vedant’s character seems arrogant, self-absorbed and aloof. But, as we get into the thick of it (by Episode 5), what we actually find is an immense level of depth within him that encompasses a type of empathy that’s perceptive, palpable and poignant.

Dia Mirza as Kainaaz Akhtar

kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, dia mirza, love story, soulmate love

Image Credit : Google

The entire web series focuses on Kainaaz’s story and her tumultuous journey which has been beautifully, sensitively and authentically performed by Dia Mirza. Towards the end, where Kainaaz gives a television interview, the way she says these poignant lines stays with me:

It’s characters, such as Kainaaz’s, whose life journeys and experiences lead to forging new pathways with the aim of cultivating some peace, joy and cordiality between communities that are otherwise plagued with grievous, life-scarring plights.

Mise-en-scene and other technical aspects

Kaafir is a technical delight to watch. It’s neatly edited with all the subplots coming to timely resolutions and the nuanced characterisations make for binge-worthy, repeatable viewing. The dialogues have been beautifully written by Vicky Chandra, who blends Hindi, Urdu and English in a smooth, effortless way. The sets are relevantly designed and the breathtaking views used in the establishing shots and certain character back stories are suitably interspersed so as not to disturb the narrative and yet make their presence felt to viewers.

English subtitles are available with this web series although a lot of the dialogue is actually in English. This timeless and timely story is highly recommended for those who love watching poetry in the motion picture format.

Read also : Exceptionally talented Indian web series actresses you should know about

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