“The Freelancer Part 2: A Slow-Motion Parody of Itself” is a series streaming on Disney+ Hotstar that stars Mohit Raina, Kashmira Pardeshi, Sushant Singh, Anupam Kher, and more. Directed by Bhav Dhulia and written by Ritesh Shah and Benazir Ali Fida, the series unfolds as a slow-motion parody of its own narrative, inheriting the self-serious tone characteristic of Neeraj Pandey-helmed productions.
The storyline, based on the 2018 book “A Ticket to Syria,” follows Avinash Kamath (played by Mohit Raina), an Indian mercenary embarking on a personal mission. His goal is to rescue Aliya Khan (played by Kashmira Pardeshi), the daughter of a late colleague, who has been abducted by her radicalized family in Syria. The first four episodes sputter towards this extraction mission, revealing Avinash’s battles with personal demons such as alcoholism, a wife grappling with depression, and a tragic past. The narrative, however, is plagued by a lack of subtlety, with characters perpetually in a hurry, and scenes staged with the nuance of a gunfight.
As the series progresses, it becomes apparent that the promised cool and complex extraction mission is the opposite – scenes are devoid of complexity and subtlety. The top-angle shots feel rushed, and an ISIS-controlled town in Syria appears more like a Bollywood set with lazy Muslim stereotypes. The series struggles to balance
the gravity of the situation with the one-note film-making style, leaving the audience with a sense of disjointed storytelling.
The character dynamics are explored, revealing Avinash’s recruitment of former colleagues for the mission. The race-against-time trope emerges as Avinash faces friction with the CIA, who threaten to bomb the town, with Aliya as collateral damage, to eliminate the terrorist outfit. The incidental portrayal of Arabs and other tropes raises questions about the series’ cultural sensitivity and portrayal of diverse characters.
As the series unfolds, it becomes clear that it has nowhere to hide. The build-up to the extraction mission hinted at complexity but fell short in execution. Scenes lack the subtlety needed for a gripping narrative, and the characters’ actions often seem out of sync with human nature. Avinash’s backstory, including his mentor played by Anupam Kher and his wife’s mental condition, feels poorly designed and, at times, forced for the sake of drama.
The series resorts to gimmicks, such as introducing a doppelganger plot with a hipster actress named Sonia Shah. This subplot, reminiscent of Bollywood films, feels flimsy and raises questions about its relevance to the main storyline. The escape from the town in broad daylight, with every resident conveniently at the mosque, adds an element of incredibility to the plot.
One of the manufactured conflicts centers around the identity of the burqa-clad woman Avinash extracts. Despite the viewer knowing it’s not Aliya, the scene is drawn out until any suspense is lost. The series introduces red herrings, such as the identity of the CIA agent communicating with Avinash, creating twists that feel more performative than substantial.
Logistical challenges, which should add complexity to Avinash’s mission, seem trivial for a character portrayed as a real-world individual. The series insists on his adherence to certain rules, like entering Syria illegally through Lebanon, while simultaneously portraying him as a mythical hero capable of overcoming any obstacle.
In the final episodes, the series attempts to inject depth by exploring Aliya’s trauma after the danger has passed. However, this moment of curiosity is short-lived, and the conclusion involves a passport swap at the airport, leaving the audience with a sense of anticlimax.
“The Freelancer Part 2” leaves viewers with conflicting feelings. On one hand, there’s an appreciation for the attempt to tackle complex themes and weave a suspenseful narrative. On the other hand, the execution falls short, relying on clichés, gimmicks, and a lack of character depth. The series struggles to find its identity, wavering between a serious drama and a parody of itself. Ultimately, it leaves the audience with a feeling that the promise of a gripping extraction mission was overshadowed by the series’ own shortcomings.