By Subhash K. Jha
Web series: “Kaafir” (ZEE5, 8 episodes); Cast: Dia Mirza, Mohit Raina; Director: Sonam Nair, Rating: *** (3 stars)
Kashmir and its blood-soaked political history renders itself well to cinematic treatment. It is to the credit of the makers of this series that not a moment of the eight episodes feels exploitative or artificial.
There is a free flow to the narrative and the main characters are written into the plot organically. Both Mohit Raina and Dia Mirza do well in their respective roles of the Kashmir-based lawyer-journalist searching for truth that may destroy his life, and the mysterious woman from Pakistan who has drifted into India and has been languishing in prison for years with no hope of being released.
That’s where the lawyer’s dormant skills kicks in.
“Kaafir” is a series with plenty of heart. Writer Bhavani Iyer has researched her subject of Kashmiri militancy. The series never lets the weight of its political theme sit heavily on the narration. If anything, the series is guilty of swimming too lightly on the surface, making the protagonist Kainaat’s predicament seem far less grim than it actually is.
Though she is shown to go through her share of hardships, the trajectory of terror and redemption is cleaned out, sanitised and rendered palatable. And that’s not such a bad thing. Unless you are seeking to see a raw hard-hitting depiction of the subversion of the legal justice system, as shown in the Oprah Winfrey-backed crime drama “When They See Us”.
The world of “Kaafir” is violent but far more manageable and fictionalised than one would expect in a series with no censor breathing down its neck. It also seems to backtrack from its purpose of exposing the authoritarian abuse of militancy as a means to oppress people who protest too much.
“Kaafir” has an easy even-tempered feel to it. The relationship that grows between the incarcerated Pakistani woman and her troubled guilt-stricken lawyer has no new insights to offer into the world of militancy. Or, for that matter, the world love which we are told, heals. That apart, it’s easy to invest some hours in Kainaat’s story.
“Kaafir” doesn’t let us forget that.