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Churails review: Asim Abbasi’s web series brims over with feisty, feminist, fast-paced fun

While the churails going all Charlie’s Angels is good for some fun-and-games, the real strength of the series comes from getting up close and very personal with the women.

Written by Shubhra Gupta
August 11, 2020 10:15:02 pm
churails, pakistani series churails, pakistani series churails, Asim Abbasi, Asim Abbasi churails, Asim Abbasi churails feminist vigilante series, indian express, indian express newsChurails is streaming on Zee5.

Churails cast: Sarwat Gilani, Nimra Bucha, Meher Bano, Yasra Rizvi
Churails director: Asim Abbasi

It’s payback time, folks. Churails, a ten-episode web series, gives us a Karachi-based band of women whose motto is to wreck revenge on the men who have made their lives miserable. Directed by Asim Abbasi, who made the engaging family drama Cake, Churails brims over with feisty, feminist, fast-paced fun. ‘Mard ko dard hoga’, they promise. And that’s exactly what they deliver.

Meet the foursome which forms the core of the group. On the face of it, Sara (Sarwat Gilani) has a perfect life. Perfect spouse, house, staff, kids, pots of money. But she wants more. She wants to be herself. Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi) is a high-profile events manager, aka Pakistan’s ‘Kim Kardashian’, according to a couple of her catty pals. She’s rich, single, and doesn’t mingle. Her best friend is a silver hip flask, her sultry beauty embellished by the kind of designer jumpsuits only the gym-ready bods of the very wealthy can wear without looking silly. Batul (Nimra Bucha) is a middle-aged jail veteran, having spent twenty years inside for murder. She’s now out, and in search of purpose. And Zubaida (Meher Bano), the youngest, wants to break free from her traditional family. She wants to flirt with her boyfriend when she is not boxing, which, she says, gives her joy.

Once the gang’s all there, the force multiplier effect of gossip kicks in. Who needs to advertise when there’s word of mouth? Done-against women start pouring into a boutique which acts as a front: ‘aage burqa, peechche bandook’. Or, more accurately, the ‘backside’ of the store, where the gals with the guns are. Cash starts coming in: rescue missions, backed by expert hackers, cost. All is going smoothly, till one day..

Not all the episodes work as well as the others. Some backing-and-forthing in time creates confused strands, and fuzziness. A particularly gruesome murder (the writer furiously channeling Roald Dahl) leads to some scatter-shot eye-roll situations, which include masked men, prostitution rackets, illegal abortions, kidnappings, dodgy private parties, scuzzy guards, and dark childhood secrets involving base appetites and sacred oaths: it’s one thing to go after husbands who meet their lovers secretly in hotel rooms, it’s quite another to try busting a ring of armed and dangerous hoods, far on the city’s outskirts. But for whatever it is worth, to watch free-spirited, cussing-out-loud, hockey-sticks and rifle-toting, burqa-clad women beating the bejesus out of violent, murderous men, is one of the high points of Churails: I was both tell-me-another, pal, and laughing my head off.

But while the churails going all Charlie’s Angels is good for some fun-and-games, the real strength of the series comes from getting up close and very personal with the women. Sometimes it bites off more than it can chew: colourism, racism, classism, elitism is all thrown into the mix. But some of the quite brave elements—men and women and same-sex love, for example—are done with empathy. And the most effective parts are the ones which are quiet, where we see the vulnerability and the pain of women, rich or poor. Their stories—a Zubaida being tricked into an arranged marriage, a Batul losing her daughter, a Sara being gaslit by her treacherous spouse, a Jugnu drowning her sorrows—are universal.

Good performances, sparkly dialogue (I want to die in Dior, says Jugnu; and all the other lines in the delicious Urdu intonations, so familiar to us from those Pakistani serials we have watched so avidly), a well-judged, muted background score (a couple of Hindi movie songs pop up, too) and a strong emotional core in its better parts: the series paints a vivid picture of the place it is set in, and you come away knowing what makes its characters tick.

And it gives you women right on top. What’s not to like?

Churails is streaming on ZEE5.

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