What could be a better title for a web series about outspoken women than Churails(Witches), a label our society punches on to any woman who knows her mind? The women on Zee5's new show wear the sobriquet as a badge of honour as they go about smashing patriarchy from behind their burkhas.
Churails, the first made-in-Pakistan project to feature a lesbian relationship, is written and directed by British-Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi (Cake). Abbasi adroitly subverts patriarchy with its own tool -- the burkha. Four women, who have all faced the brunt of patriarchy, run a detective agency behind the façade of a burkha boutique, deliciously named Halal Designs. They, and the other women featured in the show, are not only demanding their basic human right of being able to live with dignity, but insist on being independent, assertive, and unapologetic about their sexuality.
Watch the trailer of "Churails" here
A burkha-clad boxer, a trophy wife, a single rich woman and a murder convict run the detective agency that aims at catching philandering husbands. Their back stories add nuance to the story, giving us a better understanding of the milieu – while two come from privilege, one hails from a rather humble financial background and the fourth one is an ex-convict who spent 20 years in prison. Told in non-linear flashbacks, each episode -- of the four submitted for this review – reveals how the group of four are tied by the same thread.
The writer-director uses interesting imagery to underline the ideas of rebellion in a patriarchal set-up. The four leading ladies literally wear their burkhas like a superhero's capes as they head for their missions. The burkha is not imposed upon them by men, it is their armour. The women in Churails are not shown smoking or drinking just because it is cool to do so. He shows the addiction as a vice, not a virtue or a sign of feminism. Interestingly, for the Indian audience, Churails is full of very typical Indian pop culture references. In fact, poplar songs Kaala Re (Gangs of Wasseypur) and Dar Dada Dasse (Udta Punjab) are used as background scores in two important sequences of the series.
Asim, a self-confessed fan of Hindi movies, has also added a dash of comic relief to an intense scene in the series with a decidedly Bollywood touch. When the Churails' team is rescuing a daughter (from her forced nikah), one of the women hold a knife to the father's neck and insists that he tells the daughter, 'Jaa jee le apni zindagi'.
Churails does seem slightly dramatic at certain places but the stunning performances of the lead actors keeps you glued. Meher Bano, Yasra Rizvi and Sarwat Gilani slip perfectly into their characters. However, it is Nimra Bucha, essaying the role of hardened criminal - a murder convict - who is ready to kill (again) for any injustice meted out to women, who deserves a special mention. Her mere presence will run chills down your spine. The first half of the series certainly promises an engaging watch. These churails are not going anywhere.