Gideon Raff Talks Adapting Original 'Homeland' for India, Political Tensions

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Gideon Raff

The Hindi version of 'Prisoners of War' follows two Indian soldiers who escape from a Pakistani prison and "captures the zeitgeist," he says.

The Hindi version of Israeli show Prisoners of War (Hatufim), which was adapted as Homeland for Showtime in the U.S., is set to air on 21st Century Fox's Star India network starting on Nov. 7.

In January, Israel's Keshet International had inked a licensing deal with Star for the show's Indian version. P.O.W.: Bandi Yuddh Ke revolves around two Indian soldiers, declared missing in action (MIA) during the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan, who escape from a Pakistani prison to return home after 17 years.

While relations between the two countries have always been testy — in addition to Kargil, the neighbors have fought two major wars since independence from British rule in 1947 — current tensions have seen the relationship hit a new low following a series of border incidents last month. The political fallout also hit the film business, leading an industry body to declare that Pakistani talent will not be allowed to work in Bollywood. In response, Pakistani cinemas also said they would not show Indian films.

Prisoners of War creator Gideon Raff told THR that the original Israeli show has seen various adaptations because “unfortunately, there are so many conflicts in the world.” Keshet previously struck licensing deals for the show in South Korea (with Star J Entertainment), Russia (WeitMedia), Turkey (Medyapim) and Mexico (Televisa).
The Hindi version is directed by Bollywood helmer Nikkhil Advani, whose credits include 2013 action thriller D-Day.

Asked about the Hindi version's timing given the current political climate, Raff said: “You never know if a climate is better or not for a show. As artistes, we can only create the world of the show.”

Raff added that the Hindi version is a story “based in reality and based on human interactions and conflict." He continued: "It captures the zeitgeist as did the original show and other versions. That's why the Israeli and U.S. versions were so successful because they looked like their stories were ripped off the headlines.”

But he emphasized that the Hindi version “is still a fictional show. It's nothing like the tragedy that a soldier's family goes through.”

Advani added that the show “brings together two absolutely diverse realities, life in prison and life with family. On the one hand you have torture of the worst kind, and on the other family bonding and romantic love. The show covers that and the ground between.”

Raff came to Mumbai to promote the show as its pilot episode screened Tuesday at the Mumbai Film Festival as part of a special presentation ahead of a panel on television content creation. Along with telecom major Reliance Jio, the Star network is the festival's lead sponsor.

“Mumbai is like a very big Tel Aviv,” Raff said when asked about his first visit to India. “The craziness, the traffic and so many people all over. … It is very Middle Eastern. This is definitely not my last trip.”