The Freelancer: Another Espionage Drama That Explores Global Politics

Bhav Dhulia might have directed it but it is an extension of Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Baby’ and ‘Special Ops’; war-torn Syria is the USP here.

Keeps you hooked to your seats!
The Freelancer (Hindi)
  • Cast: Mohit Raina, Kashmira Pardeshi, Sushant Singh, and Anupam Kher
  • Director: Bhav Dhulia
  • Producers: Gaurav Banerjee, Varun Malik, and Mahesh Menon
  • Music: Sanjoy Chowdhury
  • No. of episodes: 4
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

After the hugely controversial and successful The Kerala Story (2023), we have another story that looks at the ISIS terror groups who want to conquer the world and the extent they would go for it.

For those who are not aware this web show is based on the book “A Ticket to Syria” by writer Shirish Thorat.

In simple terms, The Freelancer focuses on the plight of a newly married girl named Aliya (Kashmira Pardeshi). Her husband Mohsin takes her to Istanbul on the pretext of honeymoon, but his actual intention is something else.

Aliya has no idea that her husband and in-laws have been completely brainwashed by ISIS and want her to be a tool in their plans, too. She is not allowed to communicate with her parents and becomes a virtual prisoner.

Mohit Raina plays Avinash Kamat, an ex-cop turned mercenary.

The title — The Freelancer — refers to this kind of mercenary who fights as a soldier for any group or country that would pay him or her.

Avinash’s physical prowess is established very early on.

Avinash and Aliya’s father Inayat (Sushant Singh) are good friends. After learning about her plight, Inayat tries to contact her, but he doesn’t succeed. In desperation and guilt, he commits suicide.

Aliya’s mother requests Avinash to somehow bring her back.

The first season primarily focuses on how Aliya gets trapped in Syria and how she manages to get in contact with Avinash.

Performances

The Freelancer works best when it focuses on the plight of Aliya, and also ravaged terrain of Syria.

Brainwashing done in the name of religion is something that we have seen earlier as well. But it becomes uncomfortable when the stories emanate only from groups like ISIS.

The character of Aliya is the backbone of The Freelancer. She goes through varied emotions.

The young actress delivers a commendable performance. Her conversations with her mother (Ayesha Raza) are particularly impactful.

As viewers, we feel anxious about Aliya’s safety and want her to come out safe.

Sushant Singh effectively conveys the desperation of a father in the screen time he has.

Mohit Raina makes for a formidable mercenary and also a concerned uncle.

Anupam Kher as the mentor figure has a pleasing presence but the part feels undercooked.

Technical aspects

Cinematographers Tojo Xavier, Arvind Singh, and Sudhir Palsane do a good job of capturing the many locations through their lenses. Their work stands out more when they recreate the harsh terrain of Syria — whether it is the camps, local markets or dilapidated houses.

Though a lot of back and forth keeps happening editing is quite seamless.

What doesn’t work for The Freelancer is the track of Mohit Raina and the complicated relationship that he shares with his on-screen wife (Manjari Fadnnis). It is weakly written, and as a result, their track comes across as more of an unnecessary distraction.

Final take

The Freelancer ends with a cliffhanger of Aliya’s in-laws turning suicide bombers. This makes the viewers even more hooked about what would unfold in Season 2.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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