In a world of television where everything revolves around typical storylines, one good thing to come to attention, like a breath of fresh air, in recent months has been the release of the drama series “Churails”. Mostly set in Karachi, Pakistan, this series is nothing short of a rollercoaster of difficult emotions, bitter realities, destructive social constructs and the insurmountable challenges faced by women. Considering the fact that this web series was released, on an Indian streaming platform, in mid August, and it was barely two months since Churails had come out, news spread that it had been banned in Pakistan. The reason presented: it consisted of “immoral” content.
The main plot follows the lives of four women, each from a different background, but united in unusual circumstances for a single agenda – breaking norms to bring justice to every woman who has, and is being, a victim of patriarchy in a plethora of ways. Even the leading women in the series, Sara, Jugnoo, Batool and Zubaida (played by Sarwat Gillani, Yasra Rizvi, Nimra Bucha and Mehr Bano respectively) have their own troubles to deal with and have a different past to get over from. However, once one of them realizes that her husband has been cheating on her, a group is formed and they interview other suitable candidates, all of them bringing something useful and diverse to the table, in addition to their zest for justice.
Sitting through every episode definitely takes a toll on the person because within this “limited” series, Asim Abbasi, being a talented raconteur, has touched upon almost all the extremely important, yet taboo, topics of our society. Starting from adultery, it includes child abuse, rape, harrassment, transphobia, homophobia, racism and distinction in socioeconomic classes, among many others. What is more, it is the mere depiction of each of these issues that touches the heart of anyone who has even remotely observed, experienced or talked against any of these dreadful phenomena.
Circling back to the issues discussed in Churails, the amount of research done on each facet shown is pretty evident. As mentioned before, the plot simply starts off with a group of women, with different skills, working together as a secret organisation, ironically behind the charade of a timid looking boutique for burqas, to unmask the men who are being unfaithful or being involved in extramarital affairs. Gradually, as their work becomes overwhelmingly successful, an unfortunate incident forces them to shut down temporarily. A shift in the mood is seen as protests and angry mobs are dealt with and an official inquiry begins. Further developments take place which only build your inquisitiveness and leave you wondering at the bitter realities of life.
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that this could be triggering for certain audiences: the people who have first-hand gone through something as disturbing as the topics touched upon in the show and the people who downright are in denial that such activities exist – hence the initial ban. Sadly, the latter kind exists in a vast majority in our country and it is because of their problematic and weak arguments, that the rest of the population has to face repercussions. Without taking on a harsh and radical feminist stance, this decision of banning a completely harmless series, which was not even being aired on national television, hurt and angered the people who worked tirelessly, for two years, to generate content which was original and true to its core, and the people who watched it within days of it being released because they were absolutely captivated and mesmerised by what they could see on their screens. Thankfully, the decision of the ban was reversed and people can again bless their screens with the immense talent brought by a wonderful team.
Any person with a penchant for watching quality content, which will make you ponder and only appreciate the meticulous nature of television cinematography, has been talking about Churails as something you would not expect out of the Pakistani industry. However, this has not been the first case when a movie or a show has been banned because of questionable or immoral content; the film “Bol” was banned because “the movie mocked religious families, men with beards, the devotees of Data Darbar along with mocking symbols central to Islam such as mosques” and the other instance when the release of the film “Verna” was cancelled because it centered around a rape victim survivor wanting to avenge her unfortunate fate. Instances like these become really elusive in this part of the world because everything that has been observed and talked about in Churails, is as important and unavoidable as anything else. For this reason, it is high time that the bubble, of us living in a perfect world, is burst and women are made comfortable to come out and talk about sensitive matters by providing them a safe space, without any marginalisation.