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The Freelancer: I don’t believe a writer of a book should in any way interfere with a director’s choice, says Shirish Thorat | EXCLUSIVE

OTTplay caught up with Shirish Thorat, the writer of ‘A Ticket To Syria’, on which Neeraj Pandey’s ‘The Freelancer’ has been based

The Freelancer: I don’t believe a writer of a book should in any way interfere with a director’s choice, says Shirish Thorat | EXCLUSIVE
PC: Instagram / Facebook

Last Updated: 03.18 PM, Aug 31, 2023


The very name ‘Shirish Thorat’ may not ring a bell to many in the entertainment industry. But his very name spelt terror to all the law breakers. This top-cop turned author is now happily settled abroad. OTTplay caught up with him for an exclusive interview regarding the upcoming web series ‘The Freelancer’. It was Shirish Thorat’s bestselling book ‘A Ticket To Syria’ that has been the core inspiration of Neeraj Pandey’s ‘The Freelancer’.

Hello Shirish! To start with, how did the whole idea of your book ‘A Ticket To Syria’ come about?
I had already written a book about David Headley and his role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. I was looking for a story for my second book when I was approached by a friend to help them in the case of a young girl who had been lured under false pretexts to accompany her in-laws and family to Turkey, and, thereafter, found herself in an ISIS stronghold in Syria. During the effort to help, I ran into a set of circumstances and experiences that made the basis for my second book ‘A ticket to Syria’.

Why the title ‘A Ticket To Syria’?
At the time of the incident, a large portion of Syria was captured by ISIS. We found out about an organization that recruited soldiers and families to join the ‘Caliphate’, the supply chain of logistics involved in this mass global recruitment and migration of tens of thousands of radicalized humans usually involved a ticket that would take them to Syria. Hence… the name / title ‘A Ticket To Syria’.

How did Neeraj Pandey approach you? Wasn’t communicating a challenge since you are not based out of India?

Neeraj approached me through Ravi Kachhawa, who is the co-producer of ‘The Freelancer’. They managed to get my contact details and we started discussing. I was also approached by two more bigger banners but after studying Neeraj’s body of work and his approach, I decided to go with ‘Friday Storytellers’ and Neeraj. It was the best decision for me and they have turned it into gold

How much were you involved in the casting of ‘The Freelancer’?
I was not involved at all in the casting. Of course, Neeraj was kind enough to keep me posted of the main cast. But I don’t believe a writer of a book should in any way interfere with a director’s choice – a writer’s medium is words on print and a director’s medium is visuals and sound on screen. I feel both should be left alone to get the best results.

Why has the series been titled ‘The Freelancer’? It’s definitely an out of the box title in a world that’s infested with terms like Dil, Dhadkan, Pyaar, Ishq, Mohabbat etc… in the title?

There were several reasons for this. During the discussion, Neeraj, myself and Ritesh Shah (who co-wrote the screenplay) agreed that the project and story had international ramifications (a good portion of the cast and crew are non-Indian). Additionally, ‘The Freelancer’ was a more apt term to describe the character of Avinash Kamat (played by Mohit Raina). After all, that’s what a mercenary is… he is a ‘freelancer’ with no loyalties. But, to his current employer, he works for the money.

Was the title ‘The Freelancer’ the first choice?

Yes, the title was decided upon very shortly after our first few sessions in Goa and we have stuck to that. Neither Neeraj nor me ever felt the need for changing it nor was it ever contemplated.

Can we find ‘Shirish Thorat’ in any of the characters in the series ‘The Freelancer’?
I do not appear in any form or in any role in ‘The Freelancer’. However, some aspects of my career have been woven into the plotline as they accentuated the authenticity of the story.

You definitely have a decent personality and you are also associated with showbiz in some way or the other. Have you or haven’t you got offers to act?

Thank you for that complement… although you may find detractors to that opinion (laughs). Actually, this is my first dalliance with showbiz and it’s been an educational and a very interesting experience and in parts, humbling also. During the prep sessions, the production team would send me pictures and a list of props/equipment required for an authoritative scene and I would tell them to arrange choppers, tanks, Hercules bombers, a variety of guns, Humvees, machine guns etc…. Iimagine my astonishment when I landed in Casablanca and saw every item I had suggested assembled there! They had spent crores and realization hit me then, as to the size and scope of the project – it was a humbling experience.

I have not been approached with any offers to act but it's something that has been a growing idea in my head and who knows? Perhaps I shall give it a whirl… God knows… I have done most of everything else (smiles).

You have been a top-cop with the Goa Police. Did you retire and settle abroad? Or you left the job because you got a lucrative job abroad?
I had resigned from Goa Police under… shall we say ‘controversial circumstances? It is all out there on the internet. I, then, did a Masters in Global Security from the Royal Military College (Cranfield University). And then, after a short stint in the aviation sector, I have been an independent contractor. I also ran a training center for security, para military and military personnel for deployment to areas of conflict. But, after a good beginning, it was a spectacular failure for a variety of reasons.

How did your passion with writing develop? If you can touch upon your previous books?

I started writing in 2014 after moving to the USA because I was bored. Fortunately, my first book ‘The Scout’ was a success and I followed it up with ‘A Ticket To Syria’ and then wrote ‘Twisted – A Profile Of Indian Serial Killers’. This is also being adapted to a web series now. I then wrote ‘Clay Horses’ which is a departure from my usual genre of crime/thriller/terrorism. But, I don’t believe that a writer should confine themselves to a particular genre. If I like a story, I write about it. I am now writing my fifth book and enjoying it thoroughly. It’s a great high for me to write about subjects that I find fascinating.

What gives you the inspiration to choose any topic?
If a topic evokes a visceral reaction in me, then I find it irresistible. However, I do a tremendous amount of painstaking research that sometimes takes months. For me, accuracy backed by authenticity is paramount!

Tell us who is your favorite character from ‘The Freelancer’?
I have not yet seen any rushes or the raw footage of ‘The Freelancer’. It was a conscious and deliberate decision, because I didn’t want to form any opinion without viewing the entire web series. So, I will be able to answer this question after watching it! (smiles)

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