Director Pranav Pingle Reddy discusses the making of ‘Qubool Hai?’ which is inspired by incidents of child marriages and trafficking in the Old City of Hyderabad

Director Pranav Pingle Reddy discusses the making of ‘Qubool Hai?’ which is inspired by incidents of child marriages and trafficking in the Old City of Hyderabad

The title of the web series Qubool Hai? is a question director Pranav Pingle Reddy poses to his viewers as much as it is directed to a child bride in the story. The Telugu series is inspired by real-life incidents of child marriages and trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City. “Young girls are married off to men in their 60s and 80s. Are we okay with that as a society?” asks Pranav. The web series is slated to premiere on Aha on March 11

Filmed in areas near Musi river, Golconda fort, Dhoolpet and Talab Katta, Qubool Hai? took shape after extensive research on what makes families give away their young girl child in marriage to Arab men as old as 85 and what happens thereafter. 

Pranav’s previous project, Occupied, was a docu-series on Palestine. The 31-year-old independent filmmaker wants to put forth stories that reflect reality: “ Qubool Hai? shows an unexplored, darker side of Hyderabad and also highlights the city’s tehzeeb and how there are kind hearted people who fight and rescue these girls. “Malayalam and Tamil cinema often take up tough subjects; why not us? I believe such stories can engage people,” says Pranav, adding that he draws inspiration from filmmakers Shyam Benegal and Nagesh Kukunoor.

Director Pranav Pingle Reddy

Director Pranav Pingle Reddy
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Aftermath of abuse

The story idea emerged nearly six years ago when Pranav and his colleague Sanjiv C were working on a documentary. They spoke to people working in rescue missions: “The rescued girls are sent to rehabilitation homes. Various activities are conducted to encourage them to express their thoughts. Once, a girl who did not win a prize in an informal drawing contest asked the organiser if her painting was not good enough. He said he liked her painting and as a token of appreciation, gave her a chocolate. The girl took that as a cue to lift her frock. It is shocking to think what the girl must have gone through before she was rescued.” 

A scene from the Telugu web series ‘Qubool Hai?’

A scene from the Telugu web series ‘Qubool Hai?’
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Pranav heard several other accounts, including one of a minor girl giving birth in a rehab home and another girl having watched the atrocities meted out to her mother. 

He and Sanjiv felt compelled to develop a story inspired by such incidents. They wanted Qubool Hai? to reach a wider audience and spark conversations. “In between, I got busy with Occupied and when I returned to Qubool Hai?, the OTT space had opened up. We were lucky that one of the Aha team members, Karthik Tadepalli, understood the importance of this story and our style of filmmaking.”

For Occupied, Pranav filmed in Palestine with a four-member crew. Qubool Hai? involved a 160-member unit. The team plodded on despite pauses during lockdowns. 

Complexities of Hyderabad

Pranav Pingle Reddy and Sanjiv C, co-writers of the web series 'Qubool Hai?'

Pranav Pingle Reddy and Sanjiv C, co-writers of the web series ‘Qubool Hai?’
| Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

In several mainstream Telugu films, a cursory shot of the Charminar and the Laad Bazar establishes the identity of the Old City. Pranav and his crew filmed for over 18 hours in Dhoolpet, around 26 hours near Musi river and in doing so, faced challenges. “More than 1000 people gathered to watch us in Dhoolpet; suddenly one man picked up a stone and wanted to break our camera.” There also got help from unexpected quarters. He recalls an elderly gentleman brokering peace when people of two gullies squabbled over where they wanted the film team to shoot. “This man ensured that we worked in peace and later invited us home for a Hyderabadi dinner. That’s the beauty of this part of the city,” Pranav adds. 

The cast of Qubool Hai? speak Telugu and Hyderabadi dakhni. Pranav and his co-directors Umair Hasan and Faiz Rai wanted to stay true to the story and make it an engaging thriller. They did not want established stars: “It will distract attention from the story and it would have been impossible to work in the Old City. We had no perks such as a caravan. We would camp under a tree, dine in Irani cafes and nearby restaurants.”

Ameena is the protagonist of the series and is almost an ode to Ameena Begum. In 1991, an 11-year-old Ameena Begum was rescued by air hostess Amrita Ahluwalia when she was being taken to Saudi Arabia by an elderly Arab. “Ameena’s plight sparked outrage at a national level back then. It is high time we outrage about such incidents that continue to happen in Hyderabad,” says Pranav.

(Season one of Qubool Hai? will premiere on Aha on March 11)



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