‘Churails’ review: Justice League of women, by women, for women

Created by Asim Abbasi, the Pakistani web series ‘Churails’ is a reminder why it is crucial to promote exchange of arts and culture across the conflicted India-Pakistan border

Churails is a superb example in crafting a thriller sans cliffhangers. The nuanced storytelling, exemplary cinematography and production design makes this Pakistani web series created by Asim Abbasi a must watch.

The show follows the lives of four women: Sara (Sarwat Gilani Mirza), Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi), Batool (Nimra Bucha) and Zubaida (Mehar Bano). Each of the women represent a different social class; their pasts are different and they eat, talk and think different. But all of them are held down by patriarchy. They have to put up with ideas of ‘what a woman ought to be’ that is propagated by men in their lives.

Churails | Cast and Crew

  • Created by: Asim Abbasi
  • Cast: Sarwat Gilani Mirza, Yasra Rizvi, Nimra Bucha, Mehar Bano
  • Storyline: Four women form a spying agency to help women detect philandering ways of their husbands, until one day they invite trouble.

Circumstances bring all four women together under the same roof on a night Sara discovers her husband’s philandering ways. Halal Designs, a boutique, is thus born; the store is a front for a spying agency the women operate as they resolve to help other women pin down cheating husbands. They strike fear and soar high, but before long Halal Designs faces setbacks. It is at this point the series matures into a thriller.

Churails means witches. It is apt for the real story Asim tells us — of a repressive society that brands women who don’t conform to patriarchal norms as such. Take Nimra’s Batool, for example. She is a murder convict. Married off at a young age by parents who could care little, she is subjected to marital rape. She kills her husband in a bid to save her daughter. It seemed the right thing to do in her situation, but she is a ‘Churail’ to her neighbours. So is Jugnu, who is viewed as ‘disrespectful’, or Zubaida for wanting to become a boxer.

A still from ‘Churails’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The show’s dialogues are superlative and laced with dry humour. Credit is due to the show’s writers for its voice over portions, some of which is razor sharp commentary on patriarchy and misogyny, when the women describe their lives with an anecdote or a poem. Every word lands on the mark.

The show makes no bones of the liberal, feminist threads binding its story together. It is also refreshing to watch a Pakistani web series tackle institutional issues like racism, homophobia and transphobia alongside its core plot; these are issues overlooked in mainstream content here.

More importantly, the show captures Karachi in all its dirt and glory. It is a culture shock for many of us who, over the last few years, have been constantly fed politically tinted notions of our neighbour. Churails is a literal escape for us, offering a peek at places we may never be able to see otherwise. The show is also a fitting reminder of the need to promote exchange of arts and culture across the conflicted borders of India and Pakistan.

Yasra Rizvi in a still from ‘Churails’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Director of photography, Mo Azmi — who is also a co-producer — deserves much of the credit for giving us the beautiful frames. The colour palettes he uses and his frame compositions are worlds apart to what we have come to expect in a web series produced in the subcontinent.

The story arc tapers off, unexpectedly, towards the end of the show. The antagonists come off a bit weak, their characters seemingly underdeveloped as Asim is content spending more frames on building the universe around the women. There is little suspense left as the plot unravels to show us faces of the men behind the dirty deeds.

But the real question is: does it matter? It could have been any other man or group of men because the real villain is patriarchy’s trappings that chains a woman to a lifetime of servitude.

‘Churails’ is streaming on Zee5

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