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‘Baadshah Begum’ producer Rafay Rashidi, writer Saji Gul and actor Gohar Rasheed. Image Credit: Supplied

TV producer-filmmaker Rafay Rashidi has stepped into the digital world with a web series, ‘Baadshah Begum’.

The title, which loosely translates to ‘The King’s Wife’, sounds similar to the Netflix original series, ‘The Crown’. But Rashidi says it is not a historical or period drama.

“We’re telling a very contemporary story, set in today’s times,” he tells Gulf News tabloid!. “The series deals primarily with sibling rivalry which is a result of their fight for the mantle of ‘Pag’ [short for Pagri, or turban] in rural Pakistan. As such, the title has a definite contextual significance, but it’s not about a particular sect, or a tribe or clan. And it is not inspired from any true events.”

He is quick to add that he is “a huge fan of shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Vikings’. But [‘Baadshah Begum’] isn’t the fantasy sci-fi genre at all. Ours is based on a dark theme, nonetheless. Personally, I am attracted to dark themes, and our writer, Saji [Gul], has a flair for that.”

The idea of ‘Baadshah Begum’ was born while Rashidi was associated with Moomal Entertainment at Hum TV.

“At that time I thought it was too violent for our television. Web affords you the freedom to show violence and depict reality howsoever gritty.”

The producer is currently casting for the series. While Faisal Qureshi, Gohar Rasheed, and Imran Ashraf are in already, Iman Ali recently replaced Saba Qamar.

Model turned award-winning actress Ali essays the titular role while Qureshi plays the antagonist. The hunt for another actress to play Ali’s screen sister is on.

The actors begin filming in October this year. According to Rashidi: “It’s going to be [made] on a 50- to 55-minute format that most web series follow. We plan to shoot on 4K camera, probably [ARRI] Alexa. Also, it has to have 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. The production quality of web series that only a few of us are attempting is important also for international streaming giants to gain trust in our content.”

Rashidi has clearly put the failure of his debut feature ‘Thora Jee Le’ (2017) behind. Though he speaks of another film script, by the title ‘Yakeen’, he wants to concentrate on ‘Baadshah Begum’ at the moment. “Web is the way to go right now,” he declares.

He wonders why “no one from our many powerful [TV] networks is taking the risk of entering the web space. Regardless of what the outcome will be, my wish is that ‘Baadshah Begum’ contributes to our industry’s growth. We have restricted ourselves and become stagnant over time, be it in terms of our production value or content development. Our youth doesn’t watch TV now, so the medium of web is of key importance.”

He concludes by saying that he doesn’t know yet who will eventually pick up the series, “I haven’t spoken to any one. Apparently, Zee5 and Eros Now are in the market, but I would like to keep my options open for now. Otherwise it can become too restrictive for our creativity.”