Hitlist Web Awards | Bhavani Iyer: Telling stories right way to cut through hate politics

Updated: Mar 03, 2020, 08:28 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

Nominated for Best Writing for Kaafir in the upcoming mid-day and Radio City Hitlist Web Awards, Bhavani Iyer discusses why Dia Mirza-starrer is relevant in today's political climate.

A still from Kaafir
A still from Kaafir

At a time when India-Pakistan ties are fraught with tension, Kaafir is not an easy story to tell. But writer Bhavani Iyer was resolute in her decision to bring the true story — of Shehnaz who hailed from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but was put behind bars in India after being suspected of being a militant — to the screen.

"I don't know if she has watched the show, but the Shehnaz I knew 14 years ago, left me moved," begins Iyer.

Dia Mirza in Kaafir
Dia Mirza in Kaafir

Shenaz spoke about her horrors with such normalcy and heart, that I knew she had forgiven and moved on from what had happened with her," says Iyer of the woman who inspired Dia Mirza's character, Kainaaz, in the Zee5 offering. The sensitively told story has won her a nomination for Best Writing in the upcoming mid-day and Radio City Hitlist Web Awards.

"When the show released, I received love from across the border. Viewers called me to say that they liked the fact that Pakistani characters haven't been vilified," emphasises the writer. "When I was writing the show, I remember driving through Ludhiana, and the driver showed us a view of the border. It dawned on me that people on the other side are just the same." While the material was powerful, Iyer says it was only enhanced by Mirza's mature performance. "We would talk for hours thinking of how to approach her character. The idea was to retain the character's fragility, without making her bechari. She said something beautiful to me; Dia said she wanted to be in my head and wanted to keep me in her heart."

Bhavani Iyer
Bhavani Iyer

Not many know that the show was originally conceived of as a movie. With the first season garnering appreciation, work on the second edition has begun. "Kaafir 2 has to reflect what's currently happening in the country, from an insider's perspective. My politics comes from an idealistic space. I grew up in a secular democracy. I am frightened for our future generations because we are bringing them on up hate. Storytelling is the right way to cut through the cacophony."

Cast your vote for the Hitlist Web Awards

Bhavani Iyer has been nominated in the Best Writing category for Zee5's Kaafir. The other nominees are:

. The Family Man (Raj-DK, Suman Kumar, Sumit Arora; Amazon Prime)

. Made in Heaven (Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Alankrita Shrivastava; Amazon Prime)

. Little Things S03 (Dhruv Sehgal, Nupur Pai, Garima Pura Patiyaalvi, Abhinandan Sridhar; Netflix)

. Delhi Crime (Richie Mehta; Netflix)

. Gullak (Nikhil Vijay; SonyLIV)

Kaafir enjoys four nominations, including Best Series, Best Actor (Male), Best Actor (Female) and Best Writing.

There are 14 categories that the public can vote in. Log on to www.hitlistwebawards.com to cast your vote.

You can also vote via SMS. Send HITLIST <space> category name <space> your choice (a/b/c/d as on the website) to 57575.

Voting lines close on March 8.

More About Kaafir

. Bhavani Iyer insisted on adding the court scene in which Vedant [Mohit Raina's character] narrates Kainaaz's journey — how she was taken to prison and raped for years; and ends it saying 'Imagine if she was an Indian.' Apparently, it was intended to evoke empathy since people from both sides of the border, who still await trials, have been branded militants basis suspicions.

. Iyer's favourite scene is the one where Raina's character comforts Kainaaz by embracing her. The chemistry brings the scene alive even with no dialogues to fall back on.

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