A Tale of Churails – Why it Works

FYI's Batool Mehdi writes on what makes Churails resonate the way it does.

FYI’s Batool Mehdi writes on what makes Churails resonate the way it does.

Spoilers ahead.

A woman’s rage is always unacceptable.

She may be allowed to be many things – but angry is not one of them.

Make no mistake – the world frowns on her being happy too. Her being outspoken or opinionated isn’t that welcome either.

And characterless? That’s any woman who dares to defy the narrow norms prescribed by the thaikadar of morality.

But pushing back? Anger? Taking a stand against repeatedly being crushed and broken? Rage at the lies and hypocrisy which hold her to a higher standard than the men around her?

That. is her greatest sin.

Churails is a masterful subversion of the idea of that rage that has simmered collectively in womanhood for centuries. Women are moulded to ‘perfection’ and our definition of perfection is a meek, docile woman who will never react to any injustices done to her.

Who will ‘bravely’ sustain all the hurt done to her, lock it away in a vault inside her to ‘protect’ her very perpetrators.

Be thankful at being constantly lied to, and betrayed, while bearing all the broken promises with a smile. Who will move past every transgression done to her in the name of ‘compromise’ and actually apologize for having expectations in the first place.

This woman is not a person. She is not real. She does not have emotions or breaking points. You push. And chip away. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. And expect her to stay in her lane. Because, surely she knows she can’t react – the weight of the entire world rests on her shoulders alone, after all.

And the most deliciously ironic part is that when she does finally let that rage loose? She is the condemned. She is the churail.

Society will look at Batool’s murder of her husband, but not his heinous actions that pushed her there. They will ‘haw hai’ at Sara being ‘ungrateful’ at having the audacity to question a ‘perfectly functioning’ marriage but ignore her instincts about her husband which always screamed that niggling feeling so many women have – ‘something isn’t right.’

Society will judge Jugnu for her alcoholism but not look at the patriarchy that enabled it.

They will chastize Zubeida for having desires that may deviate from the norms of society but  sidestep the reality that a woman, like a man, is allowed desires and dreams as well.

No. They are mad. They are psychos. They are crazy.

They are churails.

And what an incredible journey Asim Abbasi takes us on. From the arresting imagery which opens each episode, which is symbolic of so much that is wrong with our society and eats us from within, to the superbly cutting dialogue. And of course, the layered characterization in the hands of a wonderfully capable cast.

Each character is a novella unto its own. Sara, who begins her journey as struggling to reconcile her ambitions and image of perfection that her husband and mother in law and society at large so desperately seek of her – ends the story with the truth setting her free, for perhaps the first time in her life. The signs are there – the stapler incident is a neat little indication that there is unhinged rage within her at being moulded so completely into who believes she wants to be. Her inner neurosis is relatabe to every single woman who has faced the demons of unrealized potential. Of being told that she made the decision to marry, so after all, that must now be her be-all and end-all. Which is why it feels so real when she screams out in combustive energy, “I need this, Jameel! More than I need you, more than I need my kids. And that is the honest truth.” Seeking that elusive truth is what drives Sara throughout the story. It’s almost poetic how everything comes together, from that first fateful moment she confronted her husband’s lies and deceit, to the climactic end, where she buries it all on her terms – Sarwat Gillani skilfully creates a woman who is always on the cusp of control and disillusionment. Yet, she never gives up.

Yasra Rizvi’s Jugnu is a fantastic conundrum. She is “too much” and we recognize that, and yet, we embrace her for it. Her evolution is stellar, as someone who is not even aware of her own internalized patriarchy, to finally a woman who completely embraces, no – celebrates everything that makes her different. It is her innate empathy though, empathy that she doesn’t even know she has, that drives her throughout. That Yasra, who normally speaks in such beautifully salees Urdu, carved out this character to every inch of believability, down to the weirdly anglicised/americanized accent – is a thing to behold.

Meanwhile, Nimra Bucha’s Batool is all rage, all disdain, all frustration. Her eyes speak a thousand words as she abrasively navigates a world where she was held responsible for the crimes of her husband. That is, until she stops being gaslighted. Her journey, as ‘big mama’ is incredible and so gorgeously nuanced from Nimra, in its channeling of her rage into nurturing of her wounds, and by extension, those around her too. Her crime – and everything leading up to it is so visceral, you feel everything she went through. And understand that when she is called, “churail kahin ki” why she takes it on like a badge of honour.

Finally, Mehrbano’s spirited Zubeida is so realistically carved out of generations of unmet desires and hopes of young girls. Her “larega” approach is tempered but only to the point of it enriching her, rather than debilitating her. And that is the true beauty of her journey.

The show is as much about female solidarity and sisterhood as well. A world where women are too easily pitted against one another. Here, we have these characters seamlessy, often wordlessly support each other. And it’s almost as if we are being shown just how much a woman’s life would change for the better if the women in her life supported her. There is no trite summation of this message in the show – instead, it’s all show, not tell, as we see Batool effortlessly and without question help Zubeida, or Jugnu take in Batool  or Zubeida desperate to find their colleague. The world is a much better, much safer place if women looked upon each other as allies, and not enemies.

And the same holds true for the men too. Never before has a show actually portrayed male allies the way Churails has. Shams, Dilbar and the Inspector are each so wonderfully secure in their manhood, and so wonderfully cognizant of the fact that the women in their lives are actual people – and not robotic automatons who will never have a bad day, never vent, never rant – that they shine even more in their own capacities.

The show’s use of multidimensional dynamics is another reason for why it engages so much. There’s that unspoken lifelong ‘ride or die’ sisterhood between Sara and Jugnu, but there’s also a similar one of adoptive maternal pride that Batool builds wih Zubeida. Then there’s Batool and Jugnu, who each battle their own demons by helping the other woman battle hers.

And of course, that relationship between Zubeida and Shams – each other’s rock in any and every situation. Or that inexplicable bond between Dilbar and Jugnu that isn’t supposed to make sense on paper, and yet it does. Or that powerfully compelling, almost palpable energy between the inspector and Batool. Every single dynamic helps the story along. And evolves.

In a way, the evolution in the characters and their dynamics is best summed up when Dilbar says, “kuch pallay nahi parra.” But maybe evolution isn’t supposed to make sense. It just is.

Even the supporting characters are interwoven deftly. Nothing ever feels forced. They simply become each other’s family. And we never question it.

There are moments of sheer brilliance interspersed throughout, making the story richer. That moment of them finally letting loose at the end is every woman who has ever held back even after being repeatedly wronged and snaps in that one moment, unable to hold back her rage. Jugnu needing a joint after they all converge at her house. Tabinda’s quiet moment in front of the mirror is pure pathos. That unapologetical defense by the Jalwa CEO is equally riveting in its brutal honesty. Or indeed, those final moments with the nutcracker tune playing in the background. Oh, and Nihari. Enough said.

Narratively, Churails sets itself up brilliantly. The first two episodes draw us in and the seemingly stand alone stories through till episode 4 keep us hooked. Yet by the time it all starts unravelling by episode 5 onwards, to that climactic crescendo of the final three episodes, we marvel at how the central mystery was revealed.

All said and done, strip the show off its initial shock factor, the swear words, the ‘bold’ characterizations – and what you fundamentally have is a fantastic story. And isn’t that what we all want?

Kudos, team Chueails. #WeAreChurails forever.

To sign off, here’s some incredible pieces of dialogue. If you know, you know.

“It’s about your perpetual tharak.”

“Samjo, saala daira hi phaar diya.”

“Boys will be boys.”

“Saali kainat ka kya qasoor hai. Hum saalay eik doosray ko hi danda deinay ke liye kaafi hain.”

“hamari jalaadi awam ka khoon bohat garam hai.”

“Some perform best when subjugated.”

“You’ve driven me to…why do you keep testing me?”

“Kya hum har baar qurbani dein.”

“It’s women like you. man hating, frigid lesbos.”

“Kuch feel aati hai na? Jab aurat ko behave karnay ko kehtay ho.”

“It’s disgusting to see how disrespectful you have become.”

“Main tumhay tameez sikhaongi. Achi larki banaongi. kabhi awaz nahi uthao gi.”

“Khuda gawah hai, thoray bohat harami tou hum bhi hain.”

“sirf usse apna mu band kar ke beithna tha.”

Writer can be reached at the following:

@batoolfyimag (Twitter)

@batoolfyimag (Instagram)

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