With four leading ladies -Sarwat Gilani, Yasra Rizvi, Meher Bano, and Nimra Bucha- driving the narrative, Pakistani show ‘Churails’ (witches) has definitely emerged as a winner in redefining the word commonly used as abuse for women. The show released last year, raises pertinent questions about women’s rights and questions the patriarchal norms of society.
The hugely-popular show narrates the story of four women with different backgrounds coming together to open a detective agency under the guise of a fashion store to expose cheating husbands.
Written and directed by Asim Abbasi, the ZEE5 web series has just got a US release and on this milestone, Opoyi spoke to the female leads, who were not only excited about the show touching new heights but also talk about how a certain section of Pakistani audience is not happy with the storyline. For the detractors, the show is not in sync with their 'tradition and culture'.
Excerpts from the interview.
Opoyi: Let’s go back and remember the time when you said yes to this project
Sarwat: I was familiar with Aseem’s writing because I had read his previous script and that was also a great page turner but this one was just out of the park .I mean in my years of career I had never read a script like this.. I was just jumping when Aseem said I want you to play a role in my next web series. I was like wow I want to be part of the team. I would literally leave everything and do this, if I am doing something else because not every day you get to read such a gutsy and such an honest script and knowing Asim, one would not expect this because he is really quiet.
Nimra: I haven’t read, I hadn’t and I still haven’t and I am yet to read a script as lively as this one. I was sent the first note and then I was asked to meet Asim. It was a dream come true for me and I was so happy from the word go and I really cherished every minute of the process. I wouldn’t say it was comfortable but we knew that people who were doing this were so passionate about doing this, they were putting everything into it. I felt like everybody was connected in the strange spirit. I think I worked enough years to know that sometimes that makes the project work. It was too good to be true.
Yasra : I joined late.. I was a little bit accidental casting that way . I was asked to do something else in it and then I am going to meet directors so It wasn’t really about auditioning the part when I walked in that space , their production office. By that time they were ready to go on floor and this was probably the last character to be cast and it sounded nice. It had so much to offer , so much meat for everybody so I definitely wanted to be onboard.
Opoyi: What about the title? Did the negative connotation click for you?
Yasra: I was like bring it on and I like such things, such titles. It is just when you have to say something important. There is so much noise out there , so much clutter so it’s very important to break it and I knew this title could break it because as Nimra said the script was going to say so much , it was about so many things.
Opoyi: The show has been loved immensely in India too, so do you think this project has bridged the gap between India and Pakistan in times like now?
Sahmat: At a time where we were standing last year, the pandemic, the political situation that we had, I think it was just the right thing that came out of Pakistan because there was a time when our place was doing really well. Even now our place is doing really well but we didn’t have a foot in the door when it came to web and I think with Churails, we made a significant leap in the web series platform and kudos to Zee5 for encouraging us, believing in us and believing in script coming from Pakistan when we don’t have many strong technical support when it comes to filmmaking so I think this altogether came out really nicely .
I think this is a very temporary glitch that we are facing and it happens every couple of decades between India and Pakistan but it's a great time for people to see what sort of talent we have in Pakistan. Also because obviously there are pre conceived notions and you only get to see one side of the story or one side of the country through news. There is so much talent in Pakistan and I am so happy that now finally Indians , Americans , Australians will be able to see what Pakistan can come up with.
Opoyi: Many people thought the show is not in sync with Paksitani culture and tradition so does that bother you?
Nimra: Like in any sort of democratic environment, it’s so healthy to have conversations about things. It’s one thing to silence people and to remain silent about things and on the other hand, you have people who say I am going to make and write this piece of art and then somebody else whether it is in India or Pakistan will felicitate. This is the depiction of people’s lives in Pakistan and this is not the import. This is the reality and this is what people are like. These characters are much more real and much more drawn to detail, much more detailed than a lot of mainstream work in Pakistan that you see.
It’s like walking in a gallery and when you see a piece of art, you say that doesn’t mean anything and try to damange it or remove it but that piece of art has spoken and it has affected you. I think anybody who is now talking about Churails has not walked away unaffected about it and that I think is the power of the series because the series has such an emotional core that people are able to connect to it and relate to it. We got criticism because I feel this has made people think and talk about things that we were not talking about.
Opoyi: How has this show reshaped the entertainment industry in Pakistan?
Yasra: I think Churails is definitely unique and the thing that you said about a lot of people in Pakistan not accepting it as a Pakistani story is representative of the fact that a lot of us really do not understand how to tell the real Pakistani story. We are so used to telling a certain version of our story just the way we are used to living a certain version of our lives in front of people because that’s just who we are, it’s again another brown crisis. I am not saying this project will reshape the entertainment industry but I think now scripts mein 'hulchul aane lagi hai'