A Gripping Look at a Dangerous World
Indian filmmaker Neeraj Pandey has created a powerful new series for Disney+ Hotstar India called “The Freelancer.” This thrilling series takes an insightful look into the world of Islamic State, commonly known as ISIS.
Based on a Bestselling Book
“The Freelancer” is based on the bestselling 2017 book “A Ticket to Syria” by Shirish Thorat. The show is produced by Friday Storytellers and directed by Bhav Dhulia, known for his work on Netflix’s “Khakee: The Bihar Chapter,” which was also created by Neeraj Pandey. The series revolves around a daring rescue mission to save a young girl trapped in war-torn Syria.
Meet the Creator and Showrunner
Neeraj Pandey is no stranger to action-crime-thrillers. He has a rich background in the entertainment industry, having worked as a screenwriter, producer, and director. His notable works include “A Wednesday,” “Baby,” “Naam Shabana,” “Special 26,” and the hit sports biopic “M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story.” For “The Freelancer,” he takes on the role of the creator and showrunner.
Expanding on the Original Story
Pandey mentioned that the book had hidden details that were crucial to the screen adaptation. These additions enhanced the overall story. Pandey explained, “There were so many things that Shirish had not mentioned in the book, but when he started sharing those things, it became evident that when we were to adapt for the screen, we had to integrate those bits. And actually, those are the bits that elevate the whole story.”
A Series, Not a Film
Choosing to adapt the book into a series rather than a film was a deliberate choice. According to Pandey, “It [the book] was a very incisive look at that world. And which meant that we had to spend more time with the characters and were invested in the story, which would mean that, ultimately, six hours would be the best [format], to tell this particular story.”
A Monumental Production
“The Freelancer” was a massive undertaking, shot in Morocco to stand in for Syria, during the height of the pandemic. The production brought together a diverse team of actors and technicians from around the world. Pandey shared, “It was a huge challenge to get all of them together, considering what the world was going through. To recreate Syria in Morocco, that was a huge challenge, we practically had to rent out an entire village.”
Navigating Sensitive Territory
Given the sensitive subject matter, the production team was mindful of the political considerations. Pandey emphasized, “It falls under the purview of your responsibilities as a storyteller, to be clear and careful about what you’re talking. That doesn’t mean that you’re compromising on the storytelling or the content. But you have to be careful that you show it in the right manner. And that has become the norm now for anything that you do today, that goes for every particular genre. You have to be sensitive to the fact that it is catering to a mass audience.”
A Potential Franchise
If the audience reception is positive, “The Freelancer” may evolve into a franchise, according to Pandey. His next project, “Auron Mein Kahan Dum Tha,” is a romantic drama spanning 20 years, featuring Ajay Devgn, Tabu, and Jimmy Shergill. Additionally, new seasons of the Khakee and Special Ops franchises are in the works.
Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar
“The Freelancer,” starring Mohit Raina, Anupam Kher, and Kashmira Pardeshi, will be available for streaming starting on September 1.