Some minor spoiler alert:
Indian actors Suraj ‘Life of Pi’ Sharma as a potential CIA recruit Aayan Ibrahim and Nimrat ‘The Lunchbox’ Kaur as an ISI agent Tasleem Qureshi make ‘Homeland’s season 4 more immediate for the Indian viewers. Based on what I have seen so far, including last night’s episode, they both bring credible subtlety to their portrayals.
Sharma retains much of his innocence on display in Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’ even though one suspects that as a medical student who happens to be the nephew of a Taliban terrorist leader called Haissam Haqqani there could be twists waiting to be introduced to his character. I am curious to see how because according to the casting information Sharma has been described as a “recurring character” for three episodes, of which two are already over. So whatever has to happen ought to happen in the next episode featuring him. The makers have already given it a certain direction by having Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) begin his seduction as part of a ploy. The two kissed last night and the age difference of 14 years between Sharma’s 21 to Danes’ 35 was bridged by latter’s rather seasoned performance. Sharma was required to look nervous, unsure and yet willing all at the same time and he did that very well.
Kaur, whose character smiles and still acts villainous as an ISI agent who has Dennis Boyd, the husband of the US Ambassador to Islamabad Martha Boyd, by his balls, is engaging. The role is a complete departure from her performance as a middle-class Mumbai housewife unexpectedly discovering romance through a daily tiffin box delivery. I don’t know how many episodes she has been signed for but it was a smart career move. She gets into the character quickly because its shell as a wily South Asian woman is so familiar.
The series so far focused almost entirely on Carrie’s life as the CIA station chief in Islamabad is actually shot in Cape Town, South Africa. Having visited Islamabad as a journalist—even though my last visit there was 21 years ago—I was mildly amused to see some other place masquerading as the Pakistani capital. I am sure that for the largely untrained American audience this masquerade works and its authenticity is not so important. In any case, ‘Homeland’ is fiction which comes with its inherent creative license. That said, I don’t know if its makers even considered shooting in real Pakistan. It seems unlikely given the logistical and security challenges not to mention that the Pakistani government may not have taken lightly to being stereotyped under its very nose. However, the series makers could have cast actual Pakistani actors rather than Sharma and Kaur who can, of course, pass for native Pakistanis.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Art Malik as a retired Pakistani general Bunran “Bunny” Latif. At least, he has authentic Pakistani ancestry in so much as that could mean anything much. He was born Athar ul-Haque Malik in Bahawalpur in 1952 but made his career out of London as the more manageable Art Malik. He was characteristically polished in his portrayal.