BOTTOM LINE: Highly Engaging Drama That Loses Its Way Towards The End
|Platform: ZEE5||Genre: Social And Crime Drama|
SkinNSwear: No skin show, some violence, full of cuss words
What Is the Story About?
Churails is the first Pakistani drama that has been especially commissioned by an Indian streaming platform, ZEE5, in this case. ZEE5 brings it to its platform under its popular Zindagi brand. Created by Pakistani-British writer-director Asim Abbasi, Churails is an unapologetic, irreverent, unabashed tale of a bunch of feisty women vigilantes who take it upon themselves to teach abusive men — and through them, a deeply patriarchal society — a lesson they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. The series is set in the backdrop of Karachi.
How the bunch starts off on the mission is an intriguing story by itself. Rich, pretty socialite and once-upon-a-time-lawyer, Sara (Sarwat Gilani Mirza) lives life as the trophy wife of an aspiring-politician husband Jameel (Omair Rana), doing all the trophy wifey things expected of her – hosting smashing dinner parties, warding off inquisitive mediapersons and looking comely while doing so. Her veneer cracks when she stumbles upon hints of Jameel’s infidelities.
But instead of taking the stereotypical rona-dhona route, she banishes him to the guest bedroom forever, and embarks upon an unlikely adventure – bringing other wayward men to heel, men that are omnipresent in Pakistani society, or should we say, in the Asian subcontinent? Joining in enthusiastically is Sara’s longtime collaborator and childhood friend — rich, single wedding planner, Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi), who’s drawn to the mission by the monetary prospect of offering the service to rich society women for a hefty price.
Two other women become willing participants to the outfit – both from the lower strata of society – Zubeida (Mehar Bano), a closet boxer with an abusive father; and murder convict Batool (Nimra Bucha), who wears her murder conviction like a badge of honour. The quartet calls themselves ‘Churails’ — a frequently-applied sobriquet to women who refuse to conform. ‘Mard Ko Dard Hoga’ is their war-cry cum tagline.
A like-minded bunch joins them as Churails – women driven by the lure of money, but fuelled by the desire to be harbingers of change in society. The bunch consists of an eclectic mix of women – a pair of car-jackers, a multi-tasking transperson, a computer hacker, and sundry others. Aiding the Churails in their mission are two do-gooder men – Zubeida’s boyfriend Shams (Kashif Hussain), who, in his own words, is the best hacker they can get; and Jugnu’s Man Friday in her wedding planning business, Dilbar (Sarmed Aftab Jadraan). Oh, and also a maverick police officer who has the hots for Batool.
The narrative takes stunning twists and turns in the lead-up to the finale, uncloaking disruptive secrets and a monumental scam in the process.
The performance of the entire cast of Churails is absolutely terrific. Sarwat Gilani Mirza is polished, charming and in complete control of her act. Yasra Rizvi is a delight to watch. She’s sassy, spunky and spirited. And she’s got the best lines to spout. Nimra Bucha is mesmeric and magnetising. Her eyes shoot daggers with the capacity to kill. The rest of the cast is superb too. Each actor has been cast well, and has poured their heart and soul into their parts. Though none is known to us, each one slowly but surely grabs our attention and holds it tight. Also, none of the actors hams their way through their roles. It is completely natural acting, at its very best.
On the negative side, most of the actors in Churails speak English with a curious westernised accent. It is quite distracting, and rankles in the otherwise flawlessly performed acts. It’s as if Pakistan has yet to shrug off its colonial hangover, a situation made even more vexing by the exaggerated acquired American accent.
Churails is an exquisitely created series, set in Karachi, by far Pakistan’s most advanced city. It effortlessly straddles the sparkle and shine of high society Karachi; and the sleaze and squalor of its underbelly. It is an empowering story, told in a highly engaging manner. The narrative is studded with layers upon layers of subtext that add enigma to the tale, but never turn preachy, expository or in-your-face.
The Churails turn the very thing designed to suppress their identity into a means of wielding subtle power – their burqa. They run a Burqa boutique called Halal Designs, which is but a facade for their undercover operations. Likewise, hidden behind the anonymity lent by their burqas, the Churails strike terror in the hearts of those men that abuse the women in their care – wives, daughters, secretaries, and so on — beating up some, roughing up others, even as they dole out pepper sprays, taser guns and barely leashed warnings.
The storyline of Churails is not extraordinary by any means. It is Birds Of Prey crossed with Lisbeth Salander of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It is the treatment of the narrative that sets it apart. It is the characterisation that is the star. Every character conveys a world of meaning without being expository. The transperson’s world intrigues. The car-jacker pair of middle-aged women are hinted to be lesbian lovers. The back stories of each of the four lead Churails is fleshed out superbly, using seamless flashbacks that never jar, unlike most non-linear storytelling.
Director Asim Abbasi deploys plenty of fantastical and phantasmagorical imagery to add a hint of surrealism to the proceedings. In one striking scene in the first episode, branded a Churail for killing her husband, a supine Batool is surrounded by women who pull out chunks of her flesh as she stares glass-eyed into space. In another, a tormented woman slices the throat of her husband, chops his leg off and cooks Nihari out of it. She then proceeds to relish the meat, manic satisfaction glistening on her face.
Adding to the storytelling are the superb dialogues in the series — the narrative shines with gems of dialogues – with director Asim Abbasi taking all of the credit for the impressive writing.
On the downside is the excruciating length of the series. Ten almost one-hour episodes is a bit much. The series could have been cut shorter, to make the plot crisper and tighter. Also, Churails loses its way towards the middle, recovers somewhat, and then splutters to a clunky end. From a standout vigilante story, the narrative veers towards a standard scam story towards the end. The last few episodes are definitely a drag, despite the great reveals.
To sum it up, Churails is eminently watchable, though a shorter, crisper route to the end would have done it a world of good.
Music and Other Departments?
Churails has some terrific songs that boast great lyrics. The soundtrack adds an upbeat and galvanising tempo to the narrative. Mo Azmi’s cinematography is brilliant. The hypnotic play of colours and contrasts, juxtaposed with the pleasing at times, at times terrifying backdrops, elevates the series to a thing of beauty. The sound and production design of Churails is also above average.
length Veering off the primary premise
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Churails Review by Binged Bureau
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