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Friday, December 8, 2023

Churails ZEE5 Review: Veiled Vigilantes Combat Systematic Misogyny With A Bang

ZEE5 Global’s first Zindagi original and Asim Abbasi’s most-awaited web-series Churails is now out.

Churails is the first original Pakistani series to be launching on ZEE5, the largest streaming platform for South Asians across the globe.

It follows the story of four self-proclaimed ‘Churails’ (meaning witches) who unite to break some stereotypes and challenge the hypocrisy of patriarchal societies.

As such, these courageous women pull on multicoloured hijabs to hand out retribution to the male of the species.

The four protagonists belong to different worlds. There is a wealthy lawyer Sara (Sarwat Gilani), an out-of-work wedding planner Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi), Zubaida (Mehar Bano), a boxer from a poor family and Batool (Nimra Bucha), a convict who spent decades in prison for murdering her husband.

Behind the facade of a retail boutique, they create an army of women to take on abusive men, from straying husbands to exploitative fathers.

Asim Abbasi’s filmmaking style (as we saw in Cake) is abstract, quirky, raw and courageous.

Kudos to mesmerising cinematography and set-design as these technical aspects complement the director’s mentation. 

Asim’s dark and candid camera shots of visuals like women devouring bits of Jugnu to a missing girl poster being wasted as food wrapping paper, are metaphoric to symbolise the status of women in society.

Wide-shots with focused certain characters’ expressions during dialogue exchanges, provide a thorough insight into the Churails’ world. 

It’s interesting how symbolism is always used in Asim’s works. In Cake, the visual of a baking cake foreshadowed the drama that was to unfold.

Here, the multi-coloured hijabs become the shield and clothing of strength for the women to fight back the negative energies. 

The series is unabashed. It tackles so many issues like rape, racism, toxic masculinity, slut-shaming and homo/transphobia, among many more.

Churails dives into various societal strata of Pakistan. It acts like a magnifying glass which focuses on the lives of those who are on the fringes of society.

Even among the main protagonists of the series, we observe references of class disparity… In which, the lesser-affluent and non-high-class citizens suffer the most.

Whilst these subjects are hard-hitting, they are equally relevant.

Particularly, the conversations regarding the stark reality of Lollywood industry and fairness creams are quite eye-opening.

At the same, the series takes a rather grim insight into how patriarchy is a deep-rooted issue, stemming from a young age. 

Even though the show exhibits women centre-stage, there is a balanced portrayal of both genders. It does not bash the male sex nor does it demonise them, as a whole.

The story itself is shocking and grabs viewers by the throat. It seems like the narrative would progress a certain way but then it completely catches the viewers by surprise.

Abbasi has written the characters so vividly that we feel invested in them.

Each episode magnificently shows us the backstory of the essential characters, making their stories and struggles whole-rounded.

The convoluted writing is enhanced further by the powerful performances.

To begin with, Sarwat Gilani Mirza is extremely confident as Sara. She brings a fierceness and street-smart vibe to playing an affluent lawyer who is protective over her children.

Yasra Rizvi as Jugnu Chaudhury is pure dynamite. She’s a hip flask-toting wedding planner with abandonment issues, who instructs annoying brides to “go get your Sabya on”.

Her carefree spirit, bleak past and deep insecurities are fabulously essayed by Rizvi. Her comic-timing is apt too… At times, made me nostalgic of Beo Raana Zafar’s Habiba in Cake.

Being the central rich characters of the series, both Yasra and Sarwat share a crackling camaraderie.

Batool or ‘Badi Amma’ is played by the magnetic Nimra Bucha. She has an extremely traumatic past, a solid temper and the actor brings weariness to her zeal.

Nimra is phenomenal at essaying the role of a headstrong and misunderstood figure with such flare.

Mehar Bano portrays the role of Zubaida with oomph. She has the ability to switch modes as an actor seamlessly. 

As a boxer, who is mercilessly oppressed by her orthodox father, the character retains a fighter spirit (almost literally) and that is quite an inspirational virtue for women.

Collectively, all the actors share a fantastic rapport with each other and pack a punch.

With a venture like this, which are revolutionary there are not many obvious glitches. However, the pace seems to drop during the second half.

I feel like this half could’ve been tightly edited and ended within the eighth episode. It just seems that the narrative was unnecessarily stretched to the series being 10-episodes long.

Moreover, the contents covered within the series are not for the faint-hearted. It tackles real and prevalent subjects and in detail as possible – even pertaining to the grotesque natures of crimes.

But these are just minor flaws. The concept of this series is just so solid, that it paves a new way for the content in Pakistani Entertainment. 

Arguably, Churails On ZEE5 is the best South-Asian digital series to stream this year.

In a way, Churails is a visually aesthetic scream for justice and to end undue disparity, despite the surfaced dark humour. It unapologetically ruffles feathers… And how!

It’s never easy to break free from the shackles of inanimate society, but Asim Abbasi does. He deserves appreciation for his bravery and vision as a dynamic filmmaker.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 (4.5/5 stars)

Churails is streaming on ZEE5 via zee5.com or download the app.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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