Kaafir review: Mature, relevant storytelling allows Dia Mirza's Zee5 Original to make a bold statement
Prominently placed amidst the saddening Indo-Pak socio-political scenario, the narrative of Kaafir is not only beautiful, but also relevant.
"Log ladte hai milne ke khaatir, par apni toh bichhad jaane ki ladaai thi"
(People wage wars to unite with each other, but ours was a fight of separation)
Web content is expanding exponentially in India, and not only in terms of volume but also in scale. This fact is well depicted in Zee 5's original series Kaafir, fronted by Dia Mirza (Kainaaz Akhtar) and Mohit Raina (Vedant Rathod). The above extract from a poem used in the show sums up its essence.
Based on the true story of Shainaz, Kaafir follows the journey of an innocent Pakistani girl who faces an unlawful jail term of seven years after the Border Security Forces mistakenly consider her a militant and how she breaks away to gain legal entry into Pakistan.
Prominently placed amidst the saddening Indo-Pak socio-political scenario, the narrative of Kaafir is not only beautiful, but also relevant. Helmed by Sonam Nair, the series comes from Bhavani Iyer's (of Raazi-fame) screenplay and concept.
Bollywood has been replete with stories on the political upheavals related to Kashmir's longstanding crisis — each with a new angle and perspective. In such a milieu, Kaafir had all the challenges to overcome its predecessors in order to become memorable. Fortunately, the series achieves that and more. The entire cast and crew step up to create a story which holds crucial importance, especially in the present intolerant and dangerous scenario.
Kaafir attempts to inject hope, peace and goodwill within a system marred by hatred and prejudices. But what is more delightful is that it does so organically and with ease, instead of banking heavily on jingoistic didacticism, a stance which most creators tend to take.
The voice of the show is original and most importantly, coming from a place of integrity. Much of the credit for this may well go to Sonam and Bhavani. The two make sure there is an equitable distribution of screen time, plot and narrative between both Kainaaz and Vedant. With their destinies intertwined, the two set out on an arduous struggle for her acceptance by Pakistan.
Kainaaz's relationship with her husband Farouq Qureshi (Rahul Choudhary), with her rapist Mohammed Siddiqui (Umar Sharif), and Vedant are projected as starkly different and nuanced from each other. Dia's abandon while performing emotional sequences of a woman clearly suffering from an acute case of deferred traumatic stress is commendable. The actress plays to her strengths of portraying the pleasant, sensible victim of border politics. Kainaaz's voice shines bright in the narrative, that too in a manner which evokes empathy rather than pity.
Raina is a perfect fit for the brooding yet optimistic (and slightly self-destructive) Vedant. Kaafir clearly bolsters his career graph as an actor. He is pitch perfect with almost all his scenes: Vedant is a prolific lawyer, a passionate journalist and a supportive partner. Having lost his younger brother Veer to a militant who he helped get acquitted a few months ago, Vedant decides to abandon law and tell people's stories. His days as a reporter are often occupied with life-threatening terrorist interactions and negotiations, but he manages to keep his calm and sense of logic above unnecessary sentiment. It is this trait that eggs him to take up Kainaaz's case and fight it till it sees the light of the day. Raina is reserved in his angst of a suffering brother, a guilty son and a yearning lover. When Vedant opens up to his second sibling, justifying why he is so invested in Kainaaz's case, he simply says, "It's because I want Veer to forgive me." It is only then that viewers fully gauge the blurred layers of his suffering self.
Debutante Dishita Jain, who plays Kainaaz's daughter Seher, is truly endearing. Her innocence becomes the perfect contrast for he mother's struggle to bring her daughter back to Pakistan and a nation's continual rejection of the six-year-old on grounds of 'national security.'
The makers deal with Indo-Pak tensions in a mature manner. Special mention to a sequence where Kainaaz returns to Kashmir after an unsuccessful Delhi trip in a bid to get Seher's Pakistani visa. Owing to a militant bus attack, that claims her beloved neighbour Uncle Suri's life, Kainaaz's house (which was lent to her by Vedant) is ransacked and disfigured with 'atankvaadi' (terrorist) and other menacing slogans. Spotting her with Kainaaz, the motley mob lose control and try to burn the house down. Amidst the commotion, the wives come out in utter shock They try stopping their husbands from such a barbaric act. Suri's wife too joins the protest. As she shouts —"Who are you all to decide whether she ought to live or not?None of you can bring me justice with her death, she is innocent" — to the senseless crowd, the words ring deep in viewers' minds as they silently contemplate the current atrocities in Kashmir and PoK (Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir).
Even the conclusion of Kaafir is apt, but only as far as the timeline is concerned. Since the entire narrative oscillates between flashbacks from 1998 and the then-present events of 2005, it could be understandable that Kainaaz and Vedant's romantic saga would have to end. Swanand Kirkire's brilliant poem at the series' conclusion epitomises the couple's journey of healing each other and falling in love. Much like the denouement of Raazi, Kaafir hangs in a realm of 'what-ifs.'
The cinematography is probably one of the best departments of the series. Pratik Shah captures the wide expanse of the sprawling Himalayas deftly. The proud, snow-capped giants stand tall, dividing the two countries, its people and cultures. Yet, a simple mistake brings the two lead characters together, only to prove how similar they are.
That Kaafir has such a poignant female voice may be hugely because of Sonam and Bhavani.
A heartwarming love story between warring countries is never an unwelcome surprise. But with its unabashed commentary on gender, politics and society, Kaafir stands at much more.
Kaafir is currently streaming on Zee5.
Watch the trailer here:
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