Is The Freelancer a True Story? Is Aliya Based on a Real Girl?

Disney+ Hotstar’s ‘The Freelancer’ is a Hindi action thriller series set in a hostile environment that’s drowned in malpractice and betrayal. Created and written by Neeraj Pandey, it follows Aliya’s journey as she struggles to try and flee from the troubling and challenging circumstances in Syria. The high-octane adrenaline-inducing rescue operation conducted by Avinash, a freelancer, is shot in several locations in the recreation of an unknown and unexplored world.

The expertly crafted narrative that shows hope amidst darkness has an excellent ensemble cast, including the likes of Mohit Raina, Anupam Kher and Sushant Singh headlining it. With the gripping storyline, cinematography, and shoot locations being chosen to create a sense of authenticity along with some extremely noteworthy acting, fans have been left wondering whether the story is a work of fiction or has a true base to it.

The Freelancer is Based on the True Story of Zahi

Yes, ‘The Freelancer’ is based on a true story. Driven by a script penned by Neeraj Pandey and Ritesh Shah, it is an adaption of the book ‘A Ticket to Syria’ by Shirish Thorat, a former member of the Goa Police and recounts the rise of ISIS, including its extensive recruitment procedure in Maldives. The book is written in first person and chronicles a conversation that Shirish had with a girl named Zahi, who was held in captivity before she was eventually rescued. However, it is imperative to note that though the series has been adapted from Shirish Thorat’s book, there was also additional research that went into it, along with critical inputs coming in from the author himself.

About choosing the title, creator Neeraj Pandey stated how the term “The Freelancer” is a nickname given to Avinash’s character and is actually called “The Contact” in the book. The series follows Aliya, the daughter of an ex-police officer, as she gets married to Mohsin Fazal, a young man. However, it soon becomes evident that Mohsin and his family have been radicalized and relocated to war-torn Syria to become part of ISIS. When Aliya, who is taken along with them against her own will, goes missing, former police turned freelancer Avinash Kamath launches an investigation to track Aliya’s whereabouts and bring her back from captivity.

While Avinash carries out all sorts of discreet missions, this time, the cause is a little close to his heart. Out on a quest to bring her back against all odds, he continues to fight his own demons of having lost a child in a freak accident which has pushed his wife down the barrel of depression. Mohit Raina, who essays the role of Kamath, shed further light on his role, stating that ‘The Freelancer’ sees Avinash explore several facets of his character and actual self during his rescue journey and revealed how the role was challenging to take despite being enjoyable and satisfying.

The narrative details a journey that also traces a redemption arc for the character of Avinash. In an interview, Neeraj Pandey told Glam Sham, “What we see is that ‘The Freelancer’ had a particular journey, he was a Mumbai cop and then he gets drawn into the big bad world of renditions. From renditions, he becomes a mercenary.” The story peeks into the fears of radicalization, kidnapping, and getting recruited as a part of terror groups. From exposing the traumas of being held in captivity against one’s own will to battling inner demons in a quest to find answers and get closure, the series handles everything quite organically.

With her vulnerability and the raw emotions she exudes while making a plea for help, the character of Aliya tugs at one’s heartstrings, while the grit and determination of Avinash Kamath leaves you inspired and determined. Meanwhile, the vision of Neeraj Pandey and the knowledge of Shirish Thorat enhance the experience of watching this series. Despite the narrative coupled with the sense of fear and wonder at the unknown throughout the series that often leads to the blurring of fiction and reality, ‘The Freelancer’ is a work of fiction.

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