Kaafir: Can terrorism, prejudice and soulmate love mix?

Cast and Credits

  • Main Cast: Dia Mirza (Kainaz Akhtar), Mohit Raina (Vedant Rathore), Dishita Jain (Sehar).
  • 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

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.

Main Themes

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:

  • 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
Trailer Still from Kaafir (ZEE5, 2019)

Narrative Flow: Prejudice and Soul Love Intertwines

The subplots are as divergent as ever but converge and intertwine so beautifully courtesy of the nuanced, rich, writing by Iyer, the empathetic direction by Nair and the heartfelt, realist performances delivered by Mirza, Raina and Jain. Please note, this web series is actually based on a true story.

Pressures of becoming a mother

When Kainaaz gets rejected by her husband and his family for not being able to get pregnant after only 1.5 years of being married, it was assumed that it’s her “fault” when it was actually him who had biological issues. Her own family is seen to be embarrassed by their daughter’s supposed infertility and didn’t make her feel welcome when she was dropped off back to them. Unfortunately, the realism of this scenario still rings true to this day across classes, education and cultures.

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

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.

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

Mohit Raina as Vedant Rathore

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.

Soulmate Love between Vedant and Kainaaz

Amidst the harsher storylines, there also emerges a beautiful, soulful love that blooms between Vedant and Kainaaz. It doesn’t take long for viewers to get a sense that Vedant isn’t just fighting Kainaaz’s case to seek her justice: there’s something much more profound that he feels for her! Does he fight her case and make it into a national cause out of a love that’s so unconditional that it doesn’t matter whether this love is realised or consummated? Is it for the best that two of them stay apart and love each other platonically? It makes one raise the question: what is the point of a love that’s so pure and yet, seemingly futile? The chemistry that the two share is based on mutual knowing, lots of long silences where love is spoken through the eyes; and no expectations are made of each other. It’s so engrossing to take in the love that Vedant and Kainaaz have for each other: a love that’s platonic, deep, mutual and truly unconditional. They fight a battle that would physically separate them from each other, as Kainaaz and Sehar do eventually return to Pakistan, but the love between her and Vedant remains.

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

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:

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.

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

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Sudakshina B

Sudakshina B

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

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