“I wrote this script 13 years ago, in 2006,” revealed Bhavani Iyer, the writer of Kaafir, when I first spoke to her. Kaafir released as a web series in June 2019 on ZEE5 bankrolled by Siddharth P Malhotra starring Dia Mirza, Mohit Raina and Dishita Jain. Similarly, Happi hit the web on 25 December 2019 as a ZEE5 Original. The film, which features veteran Pankaj Kapur in a Charlie Chaplin-esque role, premiered nearly a decade after its initial release date. Guneet Monga too took 10 years to put together and make Emraan Hashmi-starrer Tigers. The likes of Kaafir, Happi, Tigers only highlight the fact that ZEE5 has pioneered the paradigm shift of empowering storytellers. Making way for scripts and stories that took birth years and years ago, the OTT platform is allowing writers and filmmakers to present their narrative the way they want it. Like A.R.Rahman said, “Trust the artist and leave. Don’t tell them what to do.”
Talking about the delay in Kaafir being made into a screen project, Bhavani told us in an exclusive conversation, “A lot of people come together to tell a story on screen. One thing I was very sure about that I would never tell this (or any other) story with anybody who didn’t believe in it. Whoever came on board with Kaafir needed to love it as much as I love it. I would never sell it as a proposal, I don’t have this ability to sell my stories to anyone, I just cannot do that, I can’t push. I believed that it would happen when the right time is right. There have been many instances in this past decade when the story of Kaafir would have been relevant to our country’s political scenario but I think it is never as relevant as it is today. Today is always the best, that is my belief. I am just very happy the way it happened right now because earlier it wouldn’t have happened with Siddharth or Dia or Mohit.”
Touching the base, director Siddharth said, “To ensure we weren’t just telling a web series out of a film script, Bhavani wrote the eight episodes to see if the script has length or no. After writing the entire series down, Bhavani told me ‘Siddharth this can become a web series and in fact, it’s better as a web series,’ and she gave me those eight episodes written. After we got that in place, then we started pitching it. The problem was that people on OTT were saying ‘Arey Hindustan-Pakistan story.’ All thanks to Tarun Katial (CEO of ZEE5), within five minutes he said, ‘This is a pro-humanity story, we must tell this story.’ At that time there was no Dia, no Mohit, no Sonam Nair (Kaafir director), no Pratik Shah (cinematographer on Kaafir), it was just Bhavani and I.”
Sunny Leone, who starred in her own biographical series Karenjit Kaur: The Untold Story, shares a similar sentiment. Although attempts have been made in the past to tell Sunny’s life story, but she never accepted them and went ahead to tell her tale her own way. “One of the big reasons why I said yes to doing this (Karenjit Kaur) is if there’s a young person out there not necessarily has to follow my actions, but just has the strength inside them to say yes, I’m going to follow my dreams in life and create my own destiny.’ That’s my message to people out there would be. Is that path going to be easy? Probably not. Are going to hurt people along the way? Maybe, but big success always comes with a lot of tough decisions. Hopefully, somebody out there will watch it and say, yeah, I want to follow my own path‘,” she told an entertainment portal.
For those unaware, Farhan Akhtar was to make his acting debut with The Fakir of Venice. Yes, you read that right. He had already shot for the movie even before Rock On!! hit cinema halls. However, the film got shelved and never saw the light of the day…until 2019. Tigers, based on a real-life incident that took place in Pakistan, faced the same issue of production and post-production delay.
All we can say is, this is just the beginning. We are sure we shall continue to bring stories to you that we truly believe in and stand by. Content is truly the king, and that’s all that matters.
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