Let me start out by saying that I hate modern Pakistani TV dramas. They’re antiquated, stale, uninspired, and boring. We’re still mulling over the same “Saas Bahu” nonsense while the world moves on to bigger themes and subjects. Sure, we had great shows back in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, but how long are we going to celebrate the old without making way for the new?
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer. Asim Abbasi has delivered nothing less than a masterwork with “Churails”. The show centers on an eponymous private detective agency where concerned wives can get proof against their cheating husbands. Whether you like or dislike, agree or disagree, approve or disapprove of the show, one thing is certain. Nothing like this has ever been produced in Pakistan.
“Churails” Contains Bewitching Performances
Let’s get the obvious out of the way the performances, barring a few extras, are all top notch.
I’ve loved Sarwat Gillani ever since I first saw her and she’s great in every frame as Sara, the “perfect wife” and ex-lawyer. She’s always had incredible talent, but it’s here that she gets to put it to full use.
Mehar Bano as the bubbly and feisty young recruit, Zubeida, with a passion for boxing delivers a career-making performance. Hopefully, we’ll see her in similarly meaty roles in the future.
Yasra Rizvi, as Jugnu Chaudhry, the upper-class wedding planner will probably stay with you long after you’ve seen the show; mostly because she’s so meme-able. I anticipate millennial audiences will relate to her character in a lot of ways.
However, the best performance in the entire series is without a doubt Nimra Bucha’s, as Batool. When she’s on screen, she makes everyone else look like amateurs by comparison. It’s a visceral, flawless performance and a career best by any standard. Without raising her voice, and without employing any melodrama, she leaves you disturbed and impressed at the same time.
Supporting performances by Omair Rana as Jameel Khan, and Adnan Malik as KK are also pitch perfect. And of course, any performance by Khalid Ahmad and Shamim Hilali is bound to be superb.
Other performances by industry veterans and current stars are also fun to watch. I won’t give away how many people have cameos in the series, but as one comment on Instagram said, “Aadhi industry ka tou series mein cameo hai”.
Asim Abbasi Weaves a Fine Plot
While the premise of a private detective agency meant to expose cheating husbands is a novelty in Pakistan, there’s so much more beneath the surface here. “Churails” confronts deep rooted issues in the patriarchal structure of Pakistan, bigotry and racism, and inequality. The best part is that Asim Abbasi’s story does this with flair and professionalism that is absent in most modern Pakistani scripts.
Half-baked stories and simplistic plots are unfortunately a staple in Pakistan’s entertainment industry. Characters are often one-note, and stories often claw and scratch at the same barren premise that has become painfully irrelevant, but not here.
Asim Abbasi’s screenplay is worthy of the Netflix treatment. It’s writing talent like that which has been so conspicuously absent in Pakistan for so long that it’s presence shines like a floodlight in darkness. Small details build up to construct huge plot points. Characters are written to be complex, messy, and lifelike; you know, humans. There are no loud, thundering men, or weeping, helpless women in “Churails”, which are unfortunately a feature of standard Pakistani dramas. If nothing else, that’s a refreshing change.
The plot is also highly original and very “Pakistani”. You may pick up on a few plot elements or treatments in some areas which mirror those in American or British TV shows, but that’s about it.
Mo Azmi Bathes Every Scene in Deep Color
Mo Azmi is probably the best cinematographer in Pakistan. He’s worked on “Operation 021”, “Jalaibee”, “Cake”, and “Laal Kabootar”. Just like his previous work, every single shot of “Churails” is dripping with gorgeous colors and impeccable lighting. He lights Karachi in the series with those unmistakable “Laal Kabootar” colors. Deep yellows, reds, and oranges permeate the series to emphasize the harsh and unforgiving nature of Asim Abbasi’s world, too often mirroring reality. Top marks here.
Yes, “Churails” is Feminist
I bring this point up so late in the review because it’s been my experience that films and shows appreciated for their messaging are often mediocre. However, “Churails” is anything but. It’s a complete experience that dissects, lays bare, and expands upon the liberal feminist message; shortcomings and all. Whether you agree or disagree with the message is another matter entirely. It’s delivered impeccably, and that’s what counts.
Not really. There are a few episodes that may end up shocking or shaking you to your core, but then the series comes with an 18+ rating for a reason. And no, it’s not for nudity or sleaze.
“Churails” gets a 9/10. We expect great things in the future from Asim Abbasi. He’s done about the best and the worst thing a writer-director can do for himself; set the bar rather high.