Dia Mirza and Mohit Raina are all set to make their digital debut with Kaafir. The ZEE5 original has been written by Bhavini Iyer and directed by Sonam Nair. The web series is based on the life and struggle of a Pakistani woman, who crosses over to India and is considered a militant. She also gives birth to a daughter while held captive. Her story impacts an Indian journalist-lawyer, who takes it upon himself to free them.
Giving out a broader message of humanity, Kaafir also touches upon the subject of prejudice and the ‘us versus them’ divide in the country. The show has been bankrolled by Siddharth P Malhotra.
Mohit Raina rose to fame playing Lord Shiva in Devon Ke Dev Mahadev. He then went on to play the lead roles in shows like Chakravartin Ashoka and 21 Sarfarosh: Saragarhi 1897. Recently, the actor was applauded for his stellar performance in Uri-The Surgical Strike, where he played the role of Major Karan Kashyap.
The 36-year-old recently sat down with indianexpress.com for an exclusive chat about Kaafir, challenges of playing a complex character and the experience of working with Dia Mirza.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You are playing a journalist and lawyer in Kaafir. What kind of preparation did you go through for the same?
I just realised what a tedious job you guys have (smiles). But honestly, I did not prep much as I was told by my director to not watch any material regarding journalism or law. She wanted to give it a realistic feel. Also, we did not want him to come across as a professional but present his human side. So, I deliberately kept myself away from any professional homework.
Producer Siddharth P Malhotra shared how you agreed to the show in the first meeting itself. What was it about the show that struck you?
As an actor, when you are narrated a script, you know you are in the story in just a couple of minutes. I have known Sid for years and we have wanted to do something together for a long time. When he reached out for Kaafir, I was completely sold by the story. And I also realised that this has to be made and put on the public domain. Sid had the story for eight years while Bhavini wrote it 13 years back. I am thankful to ZEE5 for backing the show. Personally, I take it as a big honour that they even approached me.
You hail from Jammu and the show is set in Kashmir. Did that make it more relatable for you?
Now that you ask, maybe subconsciously I was aware of it. But that was not the reason why I did the show. I was familiar with the surrounding and setting but not the situations and reactions that we have projected on-screen. I really don’t know but having grown there, it might have somewhere helped me play Vedant.
Do you feel a show like Kaafir is important given the current scenario in our country?
I think a good story doesn’t need a scenario or a situation, or even a particular timespan. If told with honesty and the right intent, it would get the love. As a team, we didn’t even know the trailer will get such a nice response. Kaafir has been accepted in a big way and I am waiting for people to watch the series now.
The show talks about prejudices we have as humans. Personally, have you ever faced it?
We all go through and experience it. But it’s important that we do not carry the baggage. It’s all a learning experience and with time, you grow beyond that. Kaafir has a beautiful message on humanity and how life is much more than having prejudices. And the sooner we realise that, it would be better for our personal growth.
You are portraying a complex character with two starkly different kind of emotions. Was it challenging for you to do justice to both shades?
Yes, it was challenging to a certain extent but I did not delve much into it. The writing was so clear and the director so precise, that I did not need to get deep into the emotions. Honestly, I didn’t work hard on that but rather focused on the journey of Vedant from point A to Z. It was difficult initially but I was living his journey on a daily basis. It was actually a learning process every day for me.
So, do you enjoy being a director’s actor?
I am quite happy to be a director’s actor and obey their orders. They are the captain of the ship and know exactly what’s needed. Also, I feel it’s important for actors to surrender themselves. Personally, I need a little time to do that but once there, I am all in. Actors are like babies going into someone else’s arm. It’s all a matter of trust. Once you believe you are in safe hands, you grow comfortable.
How was it working with Dia Mirza?
It was just fantastic. The 40-45 days schedule that I had with her was a learning experience for me. She is such a thorough professional and an utmost honest artiste. She is a giver and every emotion she has is so pure. As a co-actor, Dia kept me on my toes as I didn’t know what she will come up with next. I would actually be scared that I don’t mess up her brilliant scenes. Even though she has been so long in the industry, she is so hard working. She never took a day or scene for granted. It was an eye-opener working with her.