Churails: The Badass, South Asian Feminist Content We Deserve
Churails (witch/demon) is a 2020 ZEE5 exclusive and Zindagi Original Pakistani drama. Written and created by famed ‘Cake’ director Asim Abbasi the show follows the lives of 4 women: Sara the “perfect wife”, Jugnoo the wedding planner, Zubaida the boxer, and Batool the ex-convict. The lives of these four women become intertwined after Sara finds her husband cheating on her, which inspires them to set up a private detective agency under the guise of a Burka salon, to help other women catch their cheating husbands red-handed. However, they and their associates stumble upon something much bigger them themselves involving their friends, family and Karachi’s most elite and powerful.
I came to first learn of the show after seeing online protest surrounding its ban in Pakistan (which was quickly re-instated as a result of this) and was intrigued. In recent years, the film industry seems to be churning out the “independent woman” and “GirlBoss” content as a very obvious money grab, and I was not surprised to learn that the Pakistani media industry was throwing their hat in the ring as well. However, much of these protests and criticisms were directed at the censorship boards for silencing one of the few Pakistani TV shows determined to show complex, three-dimensional female characters.
I was only a few episodes in before I was completely hooked.
In addition to being a huge step for Pakistani media, I had never seen such positive female representation in any show irrespective of the country. Even in western media, female-led shows are still limited to 2 or 3 main characters who come from very similar backgrounds, or one main white character who must learn from her POC best friend. On top of this, the whole genre of revenge-fantasy, crime and thriller are historically male-dominated genres with female characters usually serving as conveniently placed side characters turned love interests. Churails is determined to not fall into this trap.
Because it shies away from the normal female stereotypes seen in Pakistani media, Churails has also been hailed for its representation of women from all aspects of society, irrespective of their socio-economic background, sexual identity, and gender identity – something that is definitely never talked about in Pakistani media. This was also the first time I had ever seen a Pakistani TV show highlighting the importance of female friendships, and how we as women are stronger together than apart when trying to face the hurdles purposely placed in a stiflingly patriarchal society. However, one strong criticism I do have of the show is the extreme elitism of some of the characters, particularly Sara. While of course it is the result of Sara’s “perfect” life falling apart that triggers the events of the show, I believe it spends an unnecessary amount of time following her character development with minimal pay off in comparison to other characters.
All in all, Churails is a show starring mostly women made for women. It does not play it safe and toe the line of showing men and women as equally villainous, but uses the revenge-fantasy genre as a tool to show what happens when a group of people that have been taken for granted for too long get their chance. After all, many could argue there is a little bit of a witch inside of every woman.
Trigger Warning: there are scenes that allude to sexual assault and abuse as well as graphic violent bloody scenes.
‘Churails’ is available to watch on ZEE5.