The Freelancer Review: Neeraj Pandey’s ‘The Freelancer’ – A Riveting Tale of Extraction and Intrigue


Neeraj Pandey, renowned for directing hits like “Special Ops” and “Baby,” has ventured into the web series domain with “The Freelancer,” streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. This espionage thriller unfolds a gripping story of a mercenary on a mission to rescue his loyal friend’s daughter from the clutches of ISIS in Syria. Starring Mohit Raina, Kashmiri Paradesi, Sushant Singh, and Anupam Kher in pivotal roles, “The Freelancer” offers an enthralling narrative that combines action and suspense, making it a must-watch for fans of the extraction genre.

A Growing Trend: Extraction Stories

The concept of extracting someone from behind enemy lines has become a popular theme in Western cinema. Netflix, for instance, has featured several films with such narratives, even starring actors like Chris Hemsworth in “Extraction.” However, Neeraj Pandey’s “The Freelancer” stands out as it blends a desi (Indian) storyline with international appeal, delivering a compelling action-packed series that genuinely qualifies as an extraction story.

Plot Synopsis:

“The Freelancer” revolves around the life of Avinash Kamat (played by Mohit Raina), a suspended officer of the Mumbai Police. His past is shrouded in mystery, and he has disappeared from the country after a series of events. After receiving training at the Royal Military College in London, he becomes a mercenary, undertaking international missions for various agencies and organizations, often resulting in covert operations in different countries.

Avinash’s life takes a sudden turn when he is compelled to return to India. His wife, Mrinal (portrayed by Ayesha Raj Mishra), is battling severe depression following their son’s tragic death. Avinash’s world now revolves solely around his wife and clandestine missions, leaving him with no other purpose.

However, destiny intervenes when Avinash learns about the dire situation of Aliya (Kashmiri Paradesi), the daughter of his close friend and fellow Senior Inspector Inayat Khan (Sushant Singh). Aliya is held captive by ISIS in Syria. Avinash, upon his return to India, reconnects with Inayat Khan’s wife, Sabina (Ayesha Raj Mishra), and embarks on a mission to rescue Aliya.

Dr. Arif Khan (Anupam Kher), an intelligence expert, becomes involved in Avinash’s quest for Aliya’s rescue, as the suicide outside the embassy places the case on the radar of Indian and international agencies. Avinash endeavors to seek the assistance of the CIA to extract Aliya from Syria.

Storytelling and Dialogue:

The initial season of “The Freelancer” consists of four episodes: “SOS,” “Hell,” “Flashback,” and “Martyr.” Each episode runs for approximately an hour and presents fresh developments in the story. The series draws its inspiration from Shirish Thorat’s novel “A Ticket to Syria,” with Ritesh Shah and Jenjeer Ali Fida penning the screenplay and dialogue.

The narrative kicks off with a mission assigned to Avinash by Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad. This mission sets the tone for the series, offering viewers a glimpse of what to expect in the upcoming episodes.

The series promptly shifts to Mumbai, where a shocking event involving Inayat Khan unfolds outside the American Embassy, baffling law enforcement. The reasons behind Inayat’s actions remain a mystery initially, but as the plot unfolds, Inayat’s significance in Avinash’s life becomes evident. The screenplay keeps the audience engaged with a series of questions and answers, creating an enthralling viewing experience. The unfolding of events is both suspenseful and emotionally charged.

Two Parallel Tracks:

“The Freelancer” operates on two parallel tracks. One focuses on Avinash’s efforts to rescue Aliya, showcasing his mission and interactions with Inayat Khan’s family. The other track delves into Avinash and Inayat Khan’s shared history, Aliya’s relationship with Avinash, conflicts with corrupt politicians in Maharashtra, and the reasons behind Inayat’s drastic actions. Despite the initial four episodes, the mystery behind Inayat and Avinash’s incarceration remains unrevealed, heightening anticipation for future episodes.

Character Performances:

Mohit Raina delivers an exceptional performance as Avinash Kamat, portraying a character rarely seen in Indian cinema. While such characters are more common in English films, Raina convincingly embodies the role of a mercenary. His physicality and demeanor add authenticity to his portrayal, making him a promising lead in “The Freelancer.”

Sushant Singh makes a compelling impact as Inayat Khan, a father desperate to reunite with his daughter, Aliya. Singh’s portrayal successfully conveys the anguish of a parent separated from his child.

Kashmiri Paradesi excels in her role as Aliya, depicting fear, vulnerability, and the trauma of betrayal effectively. Navneet Malik impresses as Mohsin, bringing depth to his character.

Anupam Kher, in the role of Dr. Arif Khan, adds his seasoned acting prowess to the series, even though his character’s involvement is limited in the initial episodes. His interactions with Raghavendra Sethu (played by Ayesha Raj Mishra) at the embassy offer glimpses of his significance in the unfolding story.

Ayesha Raj Mishra and Manjari Fadnis, as Sabina and Mrinal respectively, deliver solid performances within their character’s scope.

Production Quality:

“The Freelancer” boasts remarkable production quality. The cinematography captures grand visuals and expansive landscapes that add to the series’ overall appeal. The recreated scenes in Morocco, representing Syria’s ISIS-controlled territory, appear authentic and evoke a sense of dread.

Bhav Dhulia’s direction is straightforward, ensuring that Neeraj Pandey’s stamp is visible in every frame.

Neeraj Pandey’s “The Freelancer” arrives at a time when Indian cinema is witnessing a surge in films and series centered around Indian protagonists trapped in ISIS-controlled territories or embroiled in international espionage. Despite the existing competition, “The Freelancer” manages to carve its own niche.

The series runs on two compelling tracks, each with its unique set of characters and storylines, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. It skillfully combines elements of suspense, emotion, and action to craft a captivating narrative.

With Mohit Raina’s stellar performance and a gripping storyline, “The Freelancer” is undoubtedly a promising addition to the world of Indian web series. As the series progresses, viewers eagerly await the revelation of the mysteries surrounding Avinash and Inayat Khan, ensuring that “The Freelancer” will continue to captivate audiences in the episodes to come.


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