There are spoilers here, you have been warned.
Kaafir is a tale set in 2005 Kashmir where a Pakistani woman, Kainaz, enters the Indian territory by accident. What precedes and follows this is the reality of being a woman who is disadvantaged at many levels. She is abused by everyone in her life, especially those she feels at home with. Her tale is a meandering one, where Vedant, an Indian lawyer and journalist helps her through, ensuring she returns home safe.
She is a free-spirited girl who is married off to someone she doesn’t know but comes to love. The man leaves her a year and a half into their marriage for she is supposedly infertile. The only time she gets to have a real choice in her life is when a doctor asks her about what she wants to do with her pregnancy, which is a result of her being raped by a man she had come to look as a confidant. He stakes a claim on her and ‘takes what he wants’.
She decides to have the baby for this is the one thing she wanted the most and no matter how it happened, it was being fulfilled. It was the one thing in her life that was truly hers and she had a say in. She has the child in the jail and raises her to be a a really sweet child who understands the intricacies of her mother’s reality even as a six-year-old child.
Eventually, another man enters her life, one who is partly responsible for pushing her into the abyss of pain. It is a very significant moment in the tale. The security personnel who found her in the river thought she was just a villager who had crossed the border by mistake. It was Vedant, who was heartbroken after his previous poor judgement came to light a minute ago, that said they must look at her with suspicion for she was a Pakistani.
This moment is significant for it tells us how our emotions take over our rational in tough situations. The personnel would have treated her differently had Vedant not uttered anything. Similarly, as Vedant mentions it in court later on, Kainaz’s case had been brushed under the carpet for her supposed date of release had unfortunately been around the Parliamentary attacks that had strained the relations between the two countries.
These two parts in the movie are significant for they tell us how it isn’t so much about logic and laws when it comes to India-Pakistan relations. The thing that presides over everything is what they say reflects the most during a cricket match between these two sister nations. The same sentiment is reflected by every lawyer who refuses to take her case and everyone else who says hurtful things in between, including senior officials.
Yet, there is hope. There is a moment towards the end of the show where the hooligans who wanted to kill Kainaz and her daughter by burning them alive can be seen washing away the abuses they had scribbled on the outer walls of their house. One of the key moments here is when a woman who had previously shown disdain towards the mother-daughter duo makes them feel at home as a tribute to her husband, who used to dote on them.
Vedant is a very important part of the tale not just because he helps her through the legal mess but also because he is humane to her. One of the key moments in their relationship is a consensual intimate one where Kainaz recalls a flashback as Vedant pulls her closer. Though she is happy in that moment, her mind takes her back to the one she was violated of her right to say no. She pulls back and cries. Vedant holds her and comforts her.
It is one of the most powerful moments in the show that tells us the extent of trauma felt by a woman who is physically and sexually abused. It affects all her potential relationships where she in unable to partake even when she really wants to. Another key moment is when Kainaz has an outburst in the court and she screams at her rapist, asserting how she had said no, repeatedly and he had chosen to ignore her despite all her efforts.
Seher, Kainaz’s daughter is a treat to watch on screen. In her innocence, there are moments where she makes us wonder at what point do kids start to perceive the world around them and how much of this reality is created by the elders around them. Seher’s life is limited to jail and the school she attends. She has never seen a menu and she marvels at a restaurant Vedant takes her to, unable to grasp that she can choose to eat whatever she likes, that there is a world where people can make choices like these.
Another striking moment is when she shouts at hooligans, telling them she is a Hindustani. Her identity is a major plot twist in the tale for though Kainaz is her sole legal guardian, officially Seher’s father is the man who had raped her mother in jail. It’s odd how no one seems to flinch at this fact. Since he is an Indian, Seher’s parentage is a document issue that creates a lot of ripples in their life, giving us a glimpse into a cruel world.
The most defining moment of Kaafir for me is when Vedant asserts in court that Kainaz had suffered because of the injustice meted to her by the Indian authorities. ‘It’s a pure case of injustice by the Indian Authorities,’ is what he says. For an Indian character to utter this in an Indian court in an Indian show is what I would like to believe is creative freedom. The man doesn’t mock anyone, he plainly assets a fact he can prove. For me, this is a big, big moment and something I am glad they portrayed with sincerity.
Kaafir is a show that tests your patience here and there, a lot in the beginning, but is so worth sticking to till the end. Every scene with Mohit Raina and/or Dia Mirza is an absolute stunner. I really loved Dara Sandhu’s performance as Rafique too. It is an obvious love story but its treatment is so good, it is not as predictable. I did not expect a lot of things and I really think they have shown the Indian-Pakistan relation rhetoric in an acceptable yet refreshing way. I am glad this 8-episode show exists!
All the pictures and stills used in this article belong to Zee5.