To spy or not to spy

To spy or not to spy

Netflix strategically picks Balochistan as the set for its new spy thriller ‘Bard of Blood’, which at its core has something most espionage series don’t : Shakespeare

After the box office failure of ‘Why Cheat India’, Emraan Hashmi is back with a Netflix series on spies.

At the centre of the film is something you don’t generally see in a spy movie: William Shakespeare.

Emraan plays Kabir Anand, alia Adonis. He is called in to rescue four Indian agents who have been captured in Balochistan in Pakistan and are soon to be killed. Our spy was supposedly a teacher of literature, and Bard’s passages have followed him into his new unliterary profession. 

Emraan Hashmi

Kabir was expelled from RAW because of a disastrous mission 10 years ago in Balochistan, a terrain that is both mentally and physically draining. And given how often Balochistan comes up in debates between India and Pakistan, you can see Netflix wants to tap into something that is hitherto untapped.

The task at hand is pretty straightforward for a fictional world: avenge his mentor. But it is complicated by his own divided mind, which is where the Shakespeare allusions go deeper.

Kabir is like Hamlet, because loss, vengeance and guilt never makes a great concoction for a man on a mission. He is revisited by the ghosts of his past, while trying to save his country and a long-lost love, much like Hamlet before him. Kabir’s Ophelia may not be dead, but that makes little difference. “The mind is a funny thing. Kabir wants to detach and live in the present but bad experiences keep cropping up. Kabir is going through a post-traumatic stress disorder, Emraan tells Showtime.

Complimenting him are Sobhita Dhulipala, who plays an intelligence officer, and Vineeth Kumar Singh, who had to learn how to “look, walk and talk” like an Afghani.

The actors were given intensive training for the show by ex-commandos. “We were taught what type of guns are used there, how the commandos operate in groups and how they
manage when they are solo. We were given precise details which had to be followed in letter and spirit,” Vineeth says.

Sobhita, who received both critical acclaim and breakout success with the Amazon Prime series ‘Made in Heaven’, told Showtime that she is elated to play a character that so many young girls would surely relate to. “Finding a place for ourselves in a man’s world was a new experience. The role was an emotionally daunting one, but I enjoyed the highs, lows and
conflicts that came with it,” she says.

The one thing that the cast of ‘Bard of Blood’ had to learn was how there are different kinds of fear, and how it shoots up like a pain when you are in a war-torn country. “The first thing that we had to do was to understand what fear is like from the point of view of somebody who has been infiltrated another nation. What I discovered when I was reading and watching documentaries on spies is the fear syndrome that they have to face when they infiltrate the enemy nation to extract information. It’s not easy to overcome fear when they are in war-torn nations. These agents live a life that is very edgy and always has death staring at them. They find it hard adjusting to a normal life,” Emraan says.

“Three agents set out on a mission to save their people and return them to safety. It is a physically and mentally taxing proposition, but I must say that we have all emerged empowered. The series brings out a human story,” says Sobhita. Physical transformation for a character comes with learning to inhabit a new mindset too, says Vineeth.

“It was a transformation of sorts and I thoroughly enjoyed becoming someone else.”

“Emraan’s and my character are Indians at heart and are willing to die for the nation. But when they operate, they work in a different manner. There are times when Kabir (played by Emraan) has to lie to me because he finds it hard to convince me. The two clash on most fronts, but they still stick together,” says Vineeth.

‘Bard of Blood’ is an international series and is releasing in 190 countries, a feat rare even for films, and a second season already seems to be in cards. “I would love to do the second
season. Getting back into Kabir’s character would be an absolute thrill,” Emraan says.

The series features Emraan Hashmi, Vineet Kumar Singh, Shobhita Dhulipala, Kirti Kulhari, Jaideep Ahlawat and Rajit Kapur amongst others. It is directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and Gaurav Verma is the co-creator. Mayank Tewari has co-written the screenplay.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox