Kaafir, a ZEE5 Original web series that released on 15 June 2019, was initially supposed be a feature film. Written by Bhavani Iyer in 2006, based on a true life story of a Pakistani woman jailed in India, filmmaker Siddharth P Malhotra was to direct it then. However, due to the lack of producers, Kaafir couldn’t go on floors. Albeit the recent hit in the internet world starred Dia Mirza and Mohit Raina in the lead roles, Siddharth had thought of casting Kajol and Ajay Devgn in the project several years ago. In an exclusive conversation, the Hitchki maker sheds light on Kaafir’s delay and original star cast.
“I was always there as a director to tell the story. As a director, I was always on. While I was trying to get Hitchki made, I was parallelly trying to make Kaafir into a feature film. So for Hitchki people told me, because this is the story of a teacher they kept telling me “paagal teacher ki kahani kyun keh rahe ho?” Kaafir is a story where a Pakistani lady was wronged by the Indian government and then the Pakistani government wronged her too. So, at that point of time people were saying why are you telling a story where the Indian government has wronged Pakistan? I kept telling them that this is not a Hindustan-Pakistan story, this is a pro-humanity story. This is about people who are suffering from all the spheres. Producers were like it is a very tough story, do more commercial films. For me as a filmmaker, this was a commercial story. Nobody was taking it, till the advent of OTT; with the introduction of OTT, we could tell the stories we wanted to tell,” reveals Siddharth.
He further adds, “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. Again the same problem happened, 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, no Pratik, it was just Bhavani and me.”
Talking about the cast he had in mind when he was planning to direct Kaafir, Siddharth answers, “At that point in time, I had Kajol in mind. I have always been a huge fan of her and an admirer of her. My first film We Are A Family was with her, I had her in mind. I had Ajay Devgn in mind. But these things, everything changes with time automatically.”
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