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.

Cast and Credits

  • Director: Sonam Nair
  • Cinematographer: Pratik Shah
  • Written By: Bhavani Iyer
  • Dialogues: Vicky Chandra
  • Languages: Hindi and English. Subtitles (in English) available.
  • Genres: Thriller, Romance, True Story
  • Episodes: 8 (average duration 30 – 60 minutes)
  • Producer: Sidharth Malhotra, Alchemy Films
  • Digital Platform: Zee5

Plot Description

Main Themes

  • 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;
  • The psychological development of children born in prisons and how their recovery from the trauma warrants strong levels of empathy, compassion, patience and support;
  • How army families deal with trauma, death and grief;
  • The societal pressures of becoming a mother after marriage, especially in rural South Asian communities, but this could very well ring true for women across all classes, qualifications and cultures;
  • The ruthless patriarchal structure typically seen in South Asian families: i.e. what the self-appointed “head” of the family says, i.e. the father, goes, even if its detrimental to the quality of the lives of his fully-grown, well-educated and liberal-minded children.
kaafir, zee5, dia mirza, mohit raina, dishita jain, kaafir trailer, kaafir still image
kaafir, zee5, dia mirza, mohit raina, dishita jain, kaafir trailer, kaafir still image
Trailer Still from Kaafir (ZEE5, 2019)

Narrative Flow: Prejudice and Soul Love Intertwines

Here are the main junctures in this web series that really stood out to me and why:

Pressures of becoming a mother

kaafir, zee5, dishita jain, dia mirza, mohit raina, sehar, kainaaz akhtar, vedant rathore
kaafir, zee5, dishita jain, dia mirza, mohit raina, sehar, kainaaz akhtar, vedant rathore
Dishita Jain as Sehar, Dia Mirza as Kainaaz Akhtar and Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore in Kaafir (Zee5, 2019)

Stresses of living in war-torn, politically-conflicted regions

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.

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.

It’s also heartbreaking to see how Sehar, Kainaaz’s daughter of 6 years, gets confused as she struggles to understand and adjust to the real world with life in jail, which was has been her world all her life. She is also seen to struggle with her identity as being the daughter of a Pakistani mother and an Indian father. A highly-nuanced performance by Dishita Jain, by the way, she’s definitely a star in the making.

kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, vedant rathore, indian lawyer, indian journalist
kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, vedant rathore, indian lawyer, indian journalist
Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore in Kaafir (Zee5, 2019)

Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore

Soulmate Love between Vedant and Kainaaz

kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, dia mirza, love story, soulmate love
kaafir, zee5, mohit raina, dia mirza, love story, soulmate love
Dia Mirza as Kainaaz Akhtar and Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore in Kaafir (ZEE5, 2019)

Dia Mirza as Kainaaz Akhtar

“When I look at the open sky and mountain everyday from the bars of the jail’s window, I would see the same sky and mountain that lies in my country. Nature is the same for everybody. It’s humans who make boundaries.”

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

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.

Kaafir is available to watch on Zee5. These views are my own and are not endorsements to the show or platform.

Sudakshina (Kina) Bhattacharjee is a commercial writer, a qualified journalist, a published author and a digital content marketer. www.sudakshinakina.com