No, I’m not saying Indians have no talent, I’m definitely not desirous of going over the border to our neighbours. I am a patriot, always have been, always will be.
Now that we’ve gotten *that* out of the way, let me tell you about this show I saw recently and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s called Churails, and it is streaming now on Zee 5, and it happens to be a Pakistani show (that disclaimer and declaration at the beginning are starting to make sense now, aren’t they?)
The show has 10 episodes, each just under an hour long. Now, is the power woman quartet trope entirely original? Nada.
We’ve seen it multiple times before. Most famously in films and shows like Sex and the City and Veere di Wedding, and infamously in Lipstick under my Burkha, and Parched.
The writer-director of Churails, Asim Abbasi, was previously lauded for Cake (film streaming on Netflix, starring a delightful Sanam Saeed). This show, as was the case with that film, beautifully depicts women with more than 1 layer to their characters. Seriously. Woman characters with meaty parts, grey areas not limited to the usual stereotypical representation, and an actual development arc. Who woulda thunk women had more than just em killer looks (yes, sarcasm.)!
Now, some of you might have seen a few Pakistani dramas (Hum TV has a YouTube channel, and we are, after all, in the thick of a damn pandemic. All content is welcome). There are a few truly good characters, but good does not mean real. I have yet to see something as real as Abbasi’s portrayal of women on Pakistani television. Women who aren’t either straight up perfect(ly domestic and devout), or women who tick every single box on the “bazaari aurat” checklist (no headscarf, loud, not religious, not naive to a fault, you get it). The grey, indecisive, flawed, regular, REAL women. The nuance in the writing comes across beautifully, and one starts relating with, rooting for, and growing fond of, these women even before the pilot episode credits roll.
I had this image of a modern Pakistani woman, and Abbasi is keenly aware of what that image looks like, in most of our heads. And several times in the show I found this slightly problematic image being countered, and subtly depicting how similar the women of both nations are in more ways than one.
The actor line-up is exceptionally talented. The leads, especially Sarwat Gilani seen here playing the “perfect wife” who wants nothing more than to go back to her law practice (and dressed in a way that reminded me of Sobhita Dhulipala in Zoya Akhtar’s Made in Heaven), demand your attention. Nimra Bucha playing an ex-convict is chilling and endearing at the same time. Yasra Rizvi as the Event Manager in financial trouble thanks to a chandelier has the funniest moments, and sinks her teeth into the character Jugnu with relish. Mehar Bano as Zubaida is a weak link of sorts, but she gets better and better as the series progresses.
Even the cameos by Nadia Afghan and Tipu- both of whom I had last seen in Suno Chanda Season 2 in the comedic roles of the Punjabi-speaking Shahana Jamshed Ali and the Pashto-speaking Jalal Khan, are here in diametrically different roles- and they give effective performances.
Most of you may not be familiar with these names. I would still recommend this show to you, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll derive a kick out of desi women going ahead and setting up a vigilante service of sorts, and then facing the consequences when shit inevitably hits the fan, without a man swooping in and saving the day.
It made my day to watch women characters with more than a one-liner of a role being written and played beautifully, in films made by people other than Meghna Gulzar and Anurag Kashyap (and played by someone other than Taapsee Pannu).
Let me know how you like Churails!
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