Actors of Pakistani Show 'Churails' Bust Myths About Their Women

Pakistani web series actors break myth on Pakistani women

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Zee5's web series Churails is everything that Pakistan doesn't want to talk about. While the show is being appreciated by a number of people it is also receiving backlash on social media for it's portrayal of Pakistani women.The Quint spoke to Pakistani actors Nimra Bucha, Yasra Rizvi, Sarwat Gilani and Mehar Bano, the main characters in the show, and they bust some myths about Pakistani women.

You know, people in India have a notion about Pakistani women. They are always burqa clad, they don't wear jeans, they're always in salwar-kameez, not allowed to express their views. Do you girls want to say something that will change this mindset?

Sarwat Gilani: When the Kara Film Festival happened in Karachi, which is in the 90s, we had Ajay Devgn-ji and some people come in from India. And so I remember I was hosting the red carpet and this director from India or a writer from India… a girl, a young girl… she came on the red carpet and her first question was, “Oh my God! You’re not wearing burqas? I understood you would all be in burqas”. So I said, “No. In Pakistan we wear jeans and even salwar-kameez.” So she was quite shocked. But I was really hoping that, you know, from then to now, all the drama that have gone from Pakistan, there's been quite a big market for our dramas. And I thought that's going to change, but it hasn't changed! Please tell me it's changed.

Nimra Bucha: I do find that the media, the Indian media, portrays Pakistanis as something that we sort of, I think, left behind in the 50s cinema. Like aadab and sort of the Queen's way of speaking. I think that only people in cinema, in movies, spoke like that.

Yasra Rizvi: In India, I'm sure you have some areas where people are more conservative. In the same way, Pakistan has some places, some areas, where there is a more conservative mindset, conservative dressing sense.

Nimra Bucha: Actually, in our villages the women dress very practically, you know. They're not covered like from head to toe because they have to work in the fields. They have to work under very harsh conditions

Yasra Rizvi: Personal choice is more in vogue. It depends on your family. How conservative are they? How is your upbringing? It’s that way. That's what dictates it mostly here.

Mehar Bano: We were India some 70 years ago.So I don't think there's much of a difference. But yeah, I suppose there is a difference if you talk about how we are portrayed in the media in India. But I'm not really aware of that completely.

Let's come to Churails. You know generally, Churails are referred to women who are not afraid to speak their mind and feisty and etc. What was your reading of the title when Asim Abbasi came to you with the script?

Nimra Bucha: When Asim told me that it was going to be tentatively called ‘Churails' I said, “Please don't change it! This is perfect. This is a perfect title.” And really, I think the title is just half the work the title does for you, because it has so many great connotations.

Sarwat: You know, it just starts a dialogue. I think from the word go, with the title ‘Churails’, is starting that dialogue. And I think that is a very powerful dialogue.

Mehar: I think it was Asim’s answer to all the name-calling and all the labels that women have been subjected to for so long.

From the flesh trade to rape and homophobia, the show tackles different issues, you know. It's exposing the mindsets of people. How did they receive it? The Pakistani awam.

Nimra Bucha: So the Pakistani awam has been mostly very, very appreciative, very loving. In fact, the response has been, just in terms of volume, it's been huge, overwhelming. I think there has been a little bit of negativity and, you know, just in terms of how these women are, you know, what are they doing on screen, you know, they're swearing and they're drinking and smoking and, and completely taking things out of context. Then they are trying to start some kind of a series of negative things. But I find that it hasn't really taken off, that sort of backlash hasn't taken off at all.

Yasra Rizvi: The funny thing is, for this kind of a product you would expect the backlash from like the conservative factions of the society. You would expect it from that area but we have received backlash from a mixed audience. Anyone who is angry, regardless of they’re conservative or liberal. I, of all the people maybe, was more prudish about certain things. But then I read the script once, twice, thrice. Many times. And I said, “Where’s the lie in this?” I had seen all those roles in my life. I had heard all those words here in Pakistan. From the mouths of Pakistani men and women. So the authenticity problem, personally, from my experience, was something I didn’t feel. I went with it. You wouldn’t have seen such a woman in Pakistan who says ‘showtime motherf***ers’ or uses explicit language. Or who says ‘f**k this’, ‘f**k that’ for every inconvenience. But I’ve seen them.

Sarwat: We had never been part of something that was so bold. And we knew that that kind of boldness or honesty is hard for people to digest. But to our surprise, we have received 80% love and 20% backlash.

There are references to Bollywood in the show. A character is named Aliya Butt. There is a dialogue from DDLJ. So, do you guys watch Bollywood movies? Which are the recent ones you liked and how much influence does Bollywood have on the film industry of Pakistan?

Nimra: So Bollywood has been such a huge part of our lives. I mean, huge. ‘DDLJ’, oh my god, I've seen it like, you know, 50,000 times. So I think that even Asim Abbasi has taken a lot, you know, especially from the cinema of the 80s. If you watch ‘Churails' you will get that sense sometimes because it's a real entertainer trying to entertain. There's like lots of punchy lines, there's lots of absurdities and situations which are completely over the top. So it uses all of those techniques to tell a story which is rooted in reality and engraved. But it never makes- it's never heavy-handed just like those movies were never heavy-handed.

Which is your latest favourite Bollywood film?

Yasra: Andhadhun.

Sarwat: Yeah, I think Andhadhun was fabulous. I’ll go with that.

You guys are all artistes, and there have been Pakistani artistes who have come to India, been a part of Bollywood. But now, seeing the political situation of both our countries, things have changed. What do you have to say about that?

Nimra: Let's try and not stop the art from crossing borders. Let's try and listen to each other's stories. Let's be more invested in finding out more about each other through those stories. And let's collaborate more, because art will heal us.

Yasra: Even if we cannot go to each other’s country to work with each other, at least our stories should keep on crossing the borders.

Sarwat: There's so much that we've invested in each other as nations. And whether that emotion or just like a background story or something that we can relate to on a similar level. So I think the connection is always there. But yes, we do tend to fall into these little traps of political situations. But I think artistes and people want to work together and for them there are no borders.

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