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Shailja Kejriwal: Fawad doesn’t care about things like comeback

Updated on: 17 June,2024 10:17 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mohar Basu |

With Khan set to return to Indian screens after eight years, Barzakh makers Abbasi and Kejriwal discuss how the actor wasn’t pressured by audience’s expectations and chose an unconventional magic realism story

Shailja Kejriwal: Fawad doesn’t care about things like comeback

The director gives a peek into his world of magic realism with the illustrated image

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Shailja Kejriwal: Fawad doesn’t care about things like comeback

We won’t be off the mark if we say this piece of news will cheer countless female fans across the country. Eight years since we last saw Fawad Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), the Pakistani actor is set to return to Indian screens with Barzakh. In 2021, mid-day had reported that Khan and director Asim Abbasi were collaborating on a show that would be available to Indian audiences (There’s place for all in this artistic landscape, Dec 15, 2021). Sure enough, from July 19, the actor-director duo’s labour of love will stream on ZEE5 and Zindagi’s YouTube channel.

This time, Abbasi—the director of Cake (2018) and Churails (2020)—has experimented with magic realism. When we begin our chat on a Zoom call, the director says the inspiration behind Barzakh could well be Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “I was given a blank canvas. The [channel heads] had faith in me after Churails did well. I have made something that is part literature, part philosophy. It moves between a dysfunctional family story and magic realism,” he says.

Asim Abbasi and Shailja Kejriwal
Asim Abbasi and Shailja Kejriwal

In Barzakh, a 76-year-old reclusive man invites his estranged children and grandchildren to his resort to celebrate his wedding with the ghost of his first love. Producer Shailja Kejriwal admits it’s not easy to back such experimental stories. “After Churails, we wanted to do something less dramatic. We ended up doing something different yet dramatic. Everyone is doing projects aligned with audience research; someone should make something unusual,” she smiles.

The series reunites Khan with his Zindagi Gulzar Hai co-star Sanam Saeed after 12 years. The return of a popular on-screen pair brings with it certain pressures. But Abbasi felt none, he says. “There was no reference to Zindagi Gulzar Hai at all. My actors wanted to do something drastically different, as opposed to Zindagi Gulzar Hai 2. I was pleasantly surprised by Fawad. I had a notion about him before we started—Barzakh has an ensemble cast, I don’t do big [ticket] movies. [Yet] it appealed to him, and he was willing to give it his all.”

The fact that it marks the Pakistani heartthrob’s return to Indian screens plays on the producer’s mind. But Kejriwal reasons, “It’s nothing like the shows Fawad has done before. This isn’t a love story. That would’ve pressured me. In this show, for me, Asim is the hero. I am happy Fawad agreed to do it. He is a true artiste who cares only for the story and his art. He doesn’t care about things like comeback. Then who are we to?”

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