A Burkha all this while has been a symbol to protect women. What if these women one day decide to make it their cape and save the world from Patriarchy that haunts? Writer-director Asim Abbasi’s Churails that released on Zee 5 is a story and execution like no other. In my review for Netflix’s Bulbbul, I wrote “it takes a woman to be a witch for the world to be afraid of her”, Abbasi takes the conversation 10 steps ahead.
Cast: Nimra Bucha, Sarwat Gilani, Yasra Rizvi, Mehar Bano, Kashif Hussain, Sarmed Aftab Jadraan, Omair Rana and ensemble.
Churails Review: What’s It About?
Four women, a token wife (Sarwat Gilani) who left her law practice to be one, a failed wedding planner (Yasra Rizvi), a young aspiring boxer (Mehar Bano) and a murderer (Nimra Bucha) who has just come out of her 20-year imprisonment form a team. Together they build an agency named Churails to bust philandering men, in the disguise of a boutique. While on that, they rub shoulders with the giants in the city leading to their worlds turning upside down. How will they fight in a landscape so marinated in its machismo makes the plot.
Churails Review: What Works?
For the ones who have seen Asim Abbasi’s directorial debut film Cake, know how much this man is capable of sketching out strong and powerful characters, especially women. And he effortlessly dances his way to glory here too. For ages, patriarchy has fed us that a woman raising her voice becomes a witch. Churails is titled aptly for a story that shows women talking about their independence, freedom, sexuality and needs.
Four ladies setting up a detective agency to bust unfaithful men sounds highly unreal. And Abbasi plus the cast knows it. Which is why they marry this unrealistic situation with the real problems including oppression, class divide, child abuse, child marriage, human trafficking, rape, domestic violence, drug abuse, homophobia and more.
The four women are pitched like a group of superheroes. We meet them all in their own turmoil. The trophy wife Sara played by an ‘always perfect’ Sarwat is a character we have all met. When her husband calls her ‘the perfect wife’, she celebrates it as a pedestal in her head. Sarwat plays Sara with all her patience. Even when her world is trembling down she remembers telling her kids their bedtime story.
The wedding planner Jugnu Chaudhary played by Yasra is the embodiment of independence that the film talks about. She is already labelled a churail, and she is quite proud. Yasra as Jugnu is effortless, even when she abuses or has the best comebacks. The boxer Zubeida played by Mehar is introduced to the world quite brutally. Oppression has fuelled her anger and Mehar portrays that with her honest yet confident face.
The best out of the lot is Nimra Bucha who plays the murderer Batool. Here’s a woman who has killed her husband (you will know why) and is ready to take down any other man who disrespects a woman. Her inner battle, quest for her lost daughter and struggle to find a reason to live each day broke my heart into pieces. Nimra plays this character with her eyes. Unlike other three, she doesn’t vent out her struggle, rather she hides the fire within, but the sparks fly out of her eyes.
Abbasi takes all these four women and questions patriarchy in Churails. While doing this, he doesn’t eradicate the fact that good men exist too. But he for sure does a role reversal. We see men following women in this universe. Kashif Hussain, Sarmed Aftab Jadraan playing Shams and Jugnu’s assistant respectively, sit behind the laptops, whereas the ladies are out saving the world.
Asim Abbasi who has confessed his love for Bollywood (I don’t endorse that term), doesn’t limit his writing to the landscape it is set in. He lets his story be of every woman who has faced the wrongdoings in any part of the world. He even puts in many Bollywood references. Be it the DDLJ craze, or Jugnu calling Batool, Phoolan (Bandit Queen). How refreshing it is to see the two countries bonding over art!
Cinematography by Mo Azmi is as good as it gets. Set in a non-linear flow, Azmi uses it to his fullest. Using heavy lights, he differentiates between thoughts and realism. The quirky handling and art design give Churails a comicbook feel. Maybe to connect us to the superhero idea. The music meanwhile is an underrated winner of this game.
There’s a lot more which I might decode much later after I publish this. There is love, unsaid love, sisterhood, a quest to find one’s place. Figure somethings yourself while watching.
PS: Casting a trans actor to play a trans character has to be the best decision in Churails.
Churails Review: What Doesn’t Work?
A few things. The show is 10 episodes long, each with a run time of an hour almost. In this, the transition from one conflict to another seems rough in many places. For instance, even the big moment where the idea of ‘Churails’ initiates, comes in a hurry.
The melodrama gets a bit high at notes. I understand it is to justify the unrealistic aspects of this world. But it works otherwise at places.
The metaphors that come at the beginning of each episode seem to be overdone. After a point, they end up having any significance in the complete experience.
Churails Review: Last Words:
If I ever get a chance I would want to sit down with Asim Abbasi and decode his characters. Churails is a winner in redefining the word associated with women in a negative way for ages. Watch it, you might get uncomfortable, but then, reality does that and we need to accept it!