Baarwan Khiladi is not a 'sanitised cricket story', says actor turned producer Mahira Khan

Published 02 Mar, 2022 06:07pm

Images Staff

The movie touches upon nepotism and rivalries in cricket — and its makers have tried to keep the portrayal as true as possible.

Sports web-series Baarwan Khiladi is Mahira Khan's maiden project as a freshly minted producer and it will soon makes its way into the world.

The web-series, produced by Mahira alongside producer Nina Kashif and director Adnan Sarwar of Motorcycle Girl fame, will be released on Tapmad TV, a local OTT platform. The series revolves around the Shaheen XI cricket team with 12 players that have qualified for a league. It focuses on what a young man with dreams has to do in the midst of rivalry, power and an unfair system, shedding light on the what one has to face to qualify for the playing 11. The official trailer for the web-series was released on February 11 and garnered quite a lot of interest from intrigued netizens.

Director Adnan Sar, producers Nina Kashif and Mahira Khan
Director Adnan Sar, producers Nina Kashif and Mahira Khan

Khan, whilst talking to the media at the press meet for Barwaan Khiladi in Karachi on Wednesday, said the upcoming release of the series feels different from anything she's experienced so far as an actor. "It is very different to sit here as a producer and not an actor," she said. " When you are an actor, you can put a lot of things on the shoulder of the producer and be like 'what could have we done done, production was like this, this happened like that'. But right now, no matter what happens to series, the onus lies on us."

For the producer, the sports web-series is a project that was hard to pass up when she read the script for the first time. "When the script of Baarwan Khiladi came, Nina kept pressing me to 'read it, read it' and eventually I said 'okay'. When I started to read it, I was like 'oh, this is different. I am not reading a sanitised version of a cricket story'. Every sports series or film has the story of a boy going out there and Baarwan Khiladi is similar to that, but there also something very different about it. The dialogues in it, the way the boys talk to each other in the scenes, the boys [in the film] themselves said to me 'you know Mahira, this is how us boys talk to each other in real life as well'."

The heads of Tapmad TV, Zain and Yassir Pasha, had a thing or two to say about "sanitised content" in Pakistan as well. "One of the big problems with content made in Pakistan —and many other places — when it is sponsor driven is that it is sanitised in a way that it has to fit into the image of what the sponsor wants, but when the consumer is paying for it, you get to watch what you want and that is what Tapmad wants to [push forward]," said Yassir.

The web-series has tried its utmost to be as authentic as possible. "The story is about nepotism. The story is about every cricketer that has gone through the ranks in Pakistan and the problems they face. This story will not only appeal to our sports fans but the general public in Pakistan, [because] they will see how someone who doesn't get a chance [and deserves it] suffers because of that," said Zain.

Baarwan Khiladi sees actor and singer Danyal Zafar go head to head with Shahveer Jafry, a prominent Pakistani YouTuber making his acting debut through the series. The series also stars Kinza Hashmi, Sarmad Khoosat, Saba Faisal, Hina Ashfaque, Mohsin Gillani, Shafqat Cheema, Mira Sethi, Usman Peerzada, Fawad Jalal, Salman Butt, Meer Yusuf, Ali Tahir, Khaqan Shahnawaz, Zarrar Khan, Sajjad ul Haq, Ali Abbas, Waqar Ali, Hammad Akmal and Umer Hayat Chaudhry.

Zafar feels grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the project. "Mahira and Nina saw something in me, I don't know what, but they did and one fine day I received a script and a call from Nina," he said. "When I started reading the script, I'll be honest, my preconceived notion was [saying] no [to it] because who knows what will happen; it's a local web-series on a local platform. But the content was very strong. I felt compelled to [discuss the script] in more detail with Nina and Mahira and all these people."

Hashmi, who is one of the very few female characters in the film, said it was hard for her to say no Baarwan Khiladi once she was offered a role in it. "When I got the offer to do the role, all that mattered to me was Mahira Khan was the producer and this is her [very first] project. This was an honour for me," she said.

The web-series will release on Tapmad TV on March 5.