A family in Islamabad watch the Turkish drama series Dirilis: Ertugrul telecast on Pakistan's state-run channel PTV Home during the holy month of Ramadan, but the release of Churails proves Pakistan can produce its own high-quality series. Photo: AFP / Aamir Qureshi

Pakistani television series centered on the premise of two women fighting over a man have not only become popular at home but have gained a large following elsewhere in South Asia and in the Middle East. It would be a disservice to say they are bad. If they were, they wouldn’t garner such a following. The concept, however, has become monotonous.

Then there’s the competition between a veiled woman and a woman who doesn’t wear a veil. The man falls for the latter but in the end, realizes it’s the former he was destined to be with. This concept has been explored in many television serials.

There are many shows that talk about different subjects and follow different genres. The ones that become popular, however, are those that follow a similar generic formula and cater to a typical audience.

So what would make Pakistan’s first original Web series for an international streaming service any different? The answer is: Everything.

Watching Churails would make one realize why it was chosen for a foreign streaming service and not for Pakistani broadcast television. All that exists within Pakistani society that is often avoided in television series is presented to viewers in Churails.

This series within just 10 episodes covered every single issue relevant to Pakistani society, be it misogyny, domestic abuse, class divides, transphobia, and even wasting money on garden parties in a country where many people don’t have adequate access to clean water.

The series revolves around two elite and two lower-middle-class women who come together to form a detective agency to expose cheating husbands.

Sara Khan (Sarwat Gillani) and Jugnu Chaudhary (Yasra Rizvi) are the two elite women. They do have obstacles, being women in a society ruled by patriarchy, but their privilege often makes them blind to the problems of the lower segments of society.

Batool (Nimra Bucha) and Zubaida (Mehar Bano) make the two elite women realize that all women regardless of class are victims of patriarchy in one way or another.

The detective agency that the four set up consists of many other women, including two lesbian ex-convicts and a trans person who come together for the same purpose.

They set up a shop that sells modest clothing as per Pakistani cultural and religious norms to give an impression of innocent women running an honest business; after all, clothing is how a woman is defined in Pakistan’s conservative society. Behind this façade of innocence is a detective agency that aims to bring cheating men down.

There are male allies present too. There is a wedding planner’s assistant, a hacker, and later on a police officer to help the women. Things take a turn when the detective agency that becomes known as Churails (Urdu for “witches”) starts to realize that its work has led to some serious consequences. There are some ugly truths that are all connected and hit close to home that they have difficulty in accepting.

All the characters are presented with a story to tell. There are no restrictions in the story, which is something groundbreaking for a series coming from Pakistan, which often tries to limit its content creators through certain rules and regulations.

It appears that writer and director Asim Abbasi came with full force to tell viewers that this is what Pakistan is. This is what happens, but we don’t talk about it. The show is progressive in all forms, and each episode wants to expose everything wrong with Pakistani society with full ammunition.

Churails is Pakistani storytelling at its finest. Every character, whether main, recurring, or minor, has a major role to play. Many South Asians are excited to see familiar faces in guest appearances.

The cinematography is marvelous, and Mo Azmi is to be credited for that. The music is great as well. The title song by Taha Malik featuring Zoe Viccaji with lyrics by Osman Khalid Butt greatly complements the show. Saad Hayat has done a great job with the background score. The songs featured in the series are by many popular Pakistani musicians.

Churails is a masterpiece in every sense. It is an entertaining ride of 10 episodes worth one’s time. It also showcases that without restrictions and better platforms, Pakistan can create amazing content for a global audience.

The Indian streaming service Zee 5 offers some more Pakistani Web series under its Zindagi brand. With the success of Churails, their future looks promising too.

Churails has a lot to offer to viewers. It discusses a lot of things regarding Pakistani society and it is delivered in a captivating way. Viewers are missing out if they have not seen this storytelling masterpiece, which has already defined how a Pakistani Web series should be made.

Turyal Azam Khan is a Pakistani writer, blogger, and journalist who mainly focuses on current affairs, social issues, lifestyle, and culture. He has written for Daily Times, Dunya Blogs, EACPE, The Nation, Naya Daur, Surkhiyan, The Times of Israel, Street Buzz, IBC English, Mashable Pakistan and The Diplomat.

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