Variety | Movies

Why ‘Churails’ is a game changer for women in Pakistan

A poster for ‘Churails’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As well received as it was in India, the web series Churails has been dividing opinions back home in Pakistan.

The show, which features an all-female cast, shown living life on their terms, not only takes on patriarchal mindsets but exposes class inequalities in society and flips mainstream LGBTQ+ stereotypes.

In a Zoom conversation with The Hindu MetroPlus, the show’s lead actors — Sarwat Gilani Mirza, Yasra Rizvi, Nimra Bucha and Mehar Bano — say that it was hard not to have jumped at the opportunity to be a part of something that, in Sarwat’s words, is seen as a “taboo and risqué sort of storyline” in Pakistan.

A still from ‘Churails’

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

Churails is not a happy meal. Everybody can’t love it. All four of us are, in our own right, advocates of something as simple as civil liberties and equality for all. So, to be able to get a team and script behind us, it was definitely an answer to our prayers because we wanted to make people uncomfortable,” adds Yasra.

Cut from the same cloth

The actors note that while it took effort to get under the skin of their characters, their work was perhaps made easier as they could identify with one or more of the attributes of the women they play on screen.

For Sarwat, it is the way in which her character, Sara, likes to take charge and draw a quick, abrupt line over something that makes her uncomfortable. Yasra, who plays Jugnu, remarks that the quality of deflecting pain is the “emotional space” where she connects with her character.

For Mehar, who plays Zubaida, an aspiring boxer who runs away from her family to escape being married off against her will, it is the quality to help other women in distress.

Yaszra Rizvi as Jugnu Chaudhry in ‘Churails’

Yaszra Rizvi as Jugnu Chaudhry in ‘Churails’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I have seen women being stripped off their agency... my friends, who have been married against their choice. Playing this role has only strengthened my resolve,” says Mehar.

Nimra adds that she shares the “tigress mother” quality with her role. She plays Batool, a murder convict who walks free after serving a jail term for killing her husband.

“A woman who is a mother will protect her child no matter what. You might not have the fighting spirit or you may have it but don’t know how to fight. But as a tigress mother, that fight comes naturally and that is what I channelled to play Batool,” she says.

Churails is created by Asim Abbasi, the filmmaker behind Cake (2018). The show’s compositions and its use of colours have rightly been attracting praise from the film fraternity. The actors credit Asim, Mo Azmi (cinematography) and Aarij Hashimi (production designer).

Sarwat Gilani Mirza as Sara Khan in ‘Churails’

Sarwat Gilani Mirza as Sara Khan in ‘Churails’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I think Mo’s sensibilities match Asim’s. Their aesthetics were inclined to each other. Whatever Asim wrote, Mo would light the scene ever so beautifully that it would be cherry on top,” says Sarwat, as Yasra adds: “The production design is technically what that ends up making the scene. There are a lot of nuances that you will pick up when you revisit a scene. The three of them really pulled it off.”

Setting the record straight

Churails has also kick-started a conversation about representation of women in cinema.

Says Sarwat: “What we see on television here is a fictional way of telling sugar-coated stories. The real challenge for a Pakistani woman is to be understood, to be recognised, be accepted and included equally in our society.”

The actors add that they harbour guilt for being made to portray characters far removed from reality.

“The real Pakistani woman is a pilot, sportswoman, rickshaw puller or a mother feeding six children on her own while the husband does drugs. As an actor, I feel slightly less guilty now that we have done Churails to show some aspect of a real woman,” she says.

Mehar adds: “The guilt in us was having to do television and reinforce these stereotypes, being made to cater to the male gaze and be presented as this sweet little package that the men in our country want to see us as. Churails, I think it will change the way women are looked at.”

‘Churails’ is streaming on Zee5

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:54:23 AM |

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