The Freelancer: An intriguing tale of tragedy and the fight against ISIS
Representational Image
  • Platform: Disney+ Hotstar
  • Release Date: 01/09/2025
  • Cast: Mohit Raina, Anupam Kher, Kashmira Pardeshi, Sushant Singh, Manjari Fadnnis 
  • Creator: Neeraj Pandey

The Freelancer” is a series written by Neeraj Pandey and Ritesh Shar, and directed by Bhav Dhulia. It is based on the book “A Ticket to Syria: A Story About ISIS in Maldives” by Shirish Thorat. The story chronicles the journey of Avinash Kamath (Mohit Raina), a police officer who was dismissed from his services for slapping a home minister and his brother. Kamath then faces a heart-breaking tragedy in which he loses his son to an accident, and his wife is rendered mentally ill as a result of the loss of their child. Alone and desperate, Kamath walks into the world of international mercenary services and soon becomes one of the most sought-after mercenaries for hire.

Things take an interesting turn for him when he is made aware of the kidnap of a girl called Aliya (Kashmira Pardeshi) by her husband and his family (facilitated by ISIS). Aliya is the closest thing that Avinash has left to a child, and his father, played by Sushant Singh, was his best friend and mentor who committed suicide just to get Avinash’s attention to the tragedy. Desperate and running out of time, Avinash sets into motion a complex plan involving the CIA, his own assets, Aliya herself and a host of other characters to extract Aliya from ISIS-controlled territory.

Research-based gripping screenplay:

“The Freelancer” explains, through its many dialogues, flashbacks, and sequences involving the tormented protagonist and her oppressors, the process of how ISIS recruits its members, what they look for in new recruits, why the recruits choose to join them, and most importantly, how ISIS treats its women. The series takes a lot of time and care in building up a believable world and features characters who are serious, realistic, and more like businessmen using ideology as a cause, rather than being the gun-toting fanatics, as they are often mistaken to be. ISIS management were generally highly educated and motivated men who then recruited a lot of physically powerful and dedicated followers who did most of their dirty work. There were also a considerable number of foreigners who joined them and subscribed to their cause. The role of ISIS women is also critical and is touched upon in the series giving it even more material to work with and drawing a much more elaborate and thoughtful picture of the predicament that the protagonist, Aliya was in. 

The series delves into great detail to show the functioning of the CIA and other foreign agencies in subjugating and controlling whatever little was left of ISIS. This decision had a large-scale impact as it made ISIS even more determined to carry out deadlier raids, to make their presence felt. The presence of the US and other countries in the dynamics not only created an interesting twist in the overall narrative but also allowed the creators to craft more intriguing predicaments and situations. I am confident that these elements will render the series a lot more interesting by the end of it all. 

Convincing characters:

The character of Avinash Kamath is given just the right amount of motivation and reasons to do what he is shown doing. The series does an excellent job of incorporating a tragedy in his life involving his child, which went on to define him as an individual. The series then builds up enough chemistry between him and Aliya to ensure that Avinash has enough reasons to feel for her like he would for his own son and has enough stakes to risk it all to bring her back. 

Aliya and her family are portrayed as perfect examples of those suffering under the unthinkable and inhuman tragedy that the modus operandi of ISIS has unleashed on unsuspecting families. Their tragedy stands as a testimony to the immense suffering that families like theirs had to endure because of how ISIS cells lured and destroyed the lives of individuals and people around them. This contributes to Avinash’s character taking on a much more gravitas, swagger, and determination, but it also makes every situation endangering Aliya’s life incredibly tense and thrilling, as we do not want her to come in harm’s way.

Brilliant performances, cinematography, editing:

Mohit Raina stands out as the best thing about the series, but that doesn’t in any way diminish the rest of the cast. Anupam Kher is delightful in his brief appearances. We get to learn a lot about ISIS and their modus operandi from his discussions with Mohit Raina, and these dialogues are not only well-written with a penchant for detail but are equally well-realized by Anupam Kher in his trademark charming portrayal as a facilitator of Mohit’s character. He is also able to bring a sense of urgency and gusto to some of his other interactions with key characters, which further enhances the appeal of his character. 

Kashmira Pardeshi, in her role as Aliya, completely and heartbreakingly sells the predicament and tragedy that her character is thrust into through no fault of her own. She is not only believable but also adept at toggling between various emotions effectively. Some of the sequences that bring out the best in her performance are the ones where she gradually realizes the extent of the tragedy she is in and how futile it is to try and bring her husband back to his senses. Her realization of her father’s death was another devastating scene. She manages to extract enough tension and thrill in the scenes where she is shown trying to contact her family. For all these reasons and more, Kashmira Pardeshi’s stellar performance is one of the primary reasons for the success of the series.

Here’s what I hated about the series:

“The Freelancer” had me hooked from the start, but there’s one glaring issue that left a bitter taste – the abrupt cliffhanger ending. With just four episodes available, the lack of information on when the rest of the series will drop is baffling. IMDb hints at a September release, but nothing is set in stone. This decision puzzles me, as a series of this calibre demands a binge-watching experience for complete immersion and impact. The gap in viewing the final three episodes threatens to sour the enjoyment and disconnect viewers from the narrative’s intensity, potentially causing a loss of viewership. So, while someone like me is determined to finish this captivating series, the same may not hold true for more casual viewers.

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There cannot be any final words here:

I will withhold my ultimate judgment until I’ve experienced the remaining three episodes, but I must say that I have cherished every moment of what I have seen thus far. The series has gripped me, and I am confident that it will only ascend to greater heights from this point onward, culminating in one of the most electrifying and thrilling finales. The prospect of witnessing Aliya’s husband face the consequences of his actions, particularly after betraying someone who placed complete trust in him, promises to be riveting entertainment. “The Freelancer” has set high expectations, and I eagerly await its unfolding climax.

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not reflect EastMojo’s position.

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