Churails: A tale of flawed women
Director Aasim Abbasi speaks about 'imperfect' women, alpha aggression and what to expect out of his latest series
Asim Abbasi's upcoming digital series titled Churails is a tale that seems to be charting the unexplored territory of flawed women and their journeys. Within hours of the trailer dropping, Churails was trending on social media platforms and even managed to get a shout out from maverick filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. What we gather from the trailer is that there are four women (a lawyer, a wedding planner, a boxer and a murderer) who are the Mother-churails and they come together to form a detective agency with an agenda to expose cheating husbands. They hire a bunch of women to grow their network and those according to Asim are the Baby-churails in the show.
Director Asim Abbasi tells us more about these Churails and what they have in store for the netizens:
Let us talk about the intriguing poster by Samya Aarif. We noticed that there are a lot of props shown in a very subtle manner. We spotted an iron which is upside down, a venus fly trap, a hockey stick with initials 'MKDH' on it and so on. Are these clues that are important to the plot or just there for aesthetics?
A lot of work went into the poster and I had a solid creative team that made it happen. I am glad that you spotted all these clues spread across in the poster as narrative and thematic symbols. The Iron plays an important role in the show. It is Batool's (Nimra Bucha's) prop. Cactus and the venus flytrap have dual symbols. Cactus is a symbol of maternal love which is a big part of the story and just like our women, cactuses can survive harsh weather situation and the fact that they can be very prickly. Venus flytrap has an interesting context too. You know this trap doesn't kill a fly instantly. Only if the fly touches its hair then it closes and kills it. In a way it shows nature's multiple warnings. I won't say much about MKDH but it is a slogan in the show. But one thing that you seem to have missed out is the shape of the two arms on either side of the poster; those are two faces that are screaming.
Your previous project Cake had a global theatrical release and it was also Pakistan's official entry for Oscars. Don't you miss the high of releasing a film in Cinema? And how will you be able to gauge the public response which in a way is instant in the case of theatrical release.
Theatrical release has its own high and that is why I was certain that my first release has to be a film. Once I went through it then I realised that it has its own lows. Dealing with exhibitors, negotiating with distributors, cinema hall allocations, dependency on box office receipts are all emotionally drying processes. Also, judging someone's work based on a week's performance is not fair as well. With web the content is there forever. The benefit of longevity is the biggest one. Cake ran for many weeks but when it was streaming it reached to much wider zones. I still get messages for Cake from people saying we are still discovering the film and every time we see it, there is a different interpretation. So digital gives you wings to fly for a very long time. Web is an easy answer for me because before a filmmaker, I am a storyteller.
Counting your initial short films, Cake and now Churails, are you ok if the industry tags you as a serious filmmaker?
I was in the finance and investment industry before this and I left that to make films. So filmmaking has become very sacred for me. Finance isn't the first thing I think about when I want to tell a story. And now I feel that divide is blurring because audiences have a choice on this medium and they want to look for authenticity and their tolerance for frills is diminishing by the day. May be for very large scale films, people may want to go to cinema but the middle cinema has already moved to the digital space.
Do you think we don't celebrate our women enough. Is this the reason your plots are women-centric?
First of all I would say there are not enough stories about flawed women. I am not looking for role models here. Churails is not trying to preach to anyone infact it is going to portray women as humans who make mistakes. I haven't provided them any pedestal to sit on and be sin-free. My characters make mistakes and move on and their stories unfold accordingly. These women will stand up against wrong and if that inspires the lot, fair enough.
When I am writing I tend to avoid one face on it. I always had a couple of faces in mind. All of them were in the top two options I had. I picked up actors who in real life are also very similar to the characters they were playing. For Yasra, I had a cameo in mind but when she did the lines, I noticed that she has a lot of spark and she was my Jugnu and she took the character a notch higher. Nimra (who plays Batool), I had in mind because of her features that are hard and soft at the same time. She could be all soft and motherly but at the same time could turn into some one as cold as ice and rough. Banu is feisty and she is small. So I liked the idea to give someone small something really big. All of them became part of their characters.
What do you want women to take away form Churails?
Well deep down if you ask me, I have made Churails more for men than for women. I have made it for men to somehow desire to become better men; to become softer and to be more empathetic. I hope they see and realise that this alpha aggression doesn't serve them well. I wish our people could have the capacity and sense to be the devil's advocate and see the situation from another person's point of view. May the women who watch this show come out of their internalised misogyny and want to stand up for their rights.
Churails is the first original from Zindagi and will start streaming on ZEE5 from August 11.
Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment writer. He may be contacted on www.sidsaidso.com