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We wanted to tell real stories about women's empowerment: The Churails cast
City Times speaks with the cast of the Pakistani web series that's premiering globally this week
A new Pakistani web series, which is set to break societal norms about women, beaming on an Indian platform and aimed at a global audience is out to recalibrate the way men think about and empower women. This is the USP of acclaimed filmmaker Asim Abbasi's latest series Churails which is premiering on ZEE5 Global's Zindagi Original on August 11.
Abbasi, whose debut film Cake was Pakistan's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, says his intention was to present a woman's perspective through this series. "But I must confess that I've secretly written the series for men. I want them to watch it and understand that being an alpha male or aggressive is not what being a man is about. You can be gentle and still be a man."
When asked how it feels to be the first-ever Pakistani original web series to be featured on an Indian platform, Abbasi said. "It's not an Indian or for that matter a Pakistani story. It's a global story. Women throughout the world are going through such situations and a lot of people who are living beyond the South Asian diaspora are surely going to relate to Churails."
Churails is a story about four women from different walks of life who come together to open a covert detective agency to expose cheating husbands. The quartet explore various issues women face like abuse, mistreatment and harassment, as well as help the less empowered stand up in the face of patriarchy. City Times caught up with the cast over a Facebook Live session.
Sarwat Gillani, who plays criminal lawyer Sarah, says that people have been misinterpreting the meaning of churails (a witch or banshee) and have even been wrongly labelling strong women who fight for their rights as churails.
According to her, some women feel comfortable living in a bubble. "But after watching this series they will realise women need the freedom of thought and that there's nothing wrong in standing up for themselves. We wanted to tell real stories about women's empowerment and not present sugar-coated stories like the ones seen on some platforms," she adds.
"We don't see such kind of stories on our television screens, that's the most refreshing part in Churails - it's unfiltered, it's real, its the kind of change people want to see around them but don't see it being shown on their screens."
Women have been patronised all their lives says Meher Bano, who plays the young boxer Zubaida. "Men have used this (patronising) as a weapon by calling women names like churails. However, the connotation will change with this series. We've decided to reclaim this title as our own and live with it," said Bano.
She believes women have not been portrayed rightfully by the media in the subcontinent. "They are telling us how to act and how to survive in a patriarchal society. This is perhaps the first time that someone has written characters that portrays women as fully realised human beings who can be anything that men are," she added.
Some women don't know their real potential and they often get labelled a churail, adds Nimra Bucha, who plays the ex-convict Batool in the series.
"I want people to know that this is our voice, our stories, so they should watch it with an open mind. I know it's (women's empowerment) a global phenomenon, but in our part of the world, women are not represented in this manner on screen. In the 80s, we had some heroines and women writers who contributed to that representation, but lately, even though we have production houses as well as shows written by women, we don't see those (strong) women characters, what we see (on-screen) is cardboard characters. We see male stories which have elements of shame, honour enacted by women, but the story is about the man who emerges as the protagonist. That's what I want people to see, this is reality. But more than anything else, my secret expectation is for the series to be watched in India," confesses Bucha.
Being called a churail is something Yasra Rizvi is familiar with. The actor who plays the wedding planner Jugnu Chaudhry says, "I was very happy to play a role which I was called behind my back for nearly four months (during the filming process)! So for me being a churail is just me being me."
"When people see us on screen I hope they will understand that this is what being humans mean - to be flawed. Everyone fights their own battles."
Success in cinema can be gauged by box-office numbers, but how does one rate the success of a web series? "Success depends on the number of people watching the show. The more the eyeballs the better. I want as many people to watch Churails globally and hopefully start a mini churail movement in the subcontinent and globally," concluded Abbasi.
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