At a time where psuedo-feminist shows act as an excuse to cater to the male gaze in the name of empowerment on streaming services, Churails is so much more than just a breath of fresh air- it is a storm right from the opening credits to the last shot. While most of these shows actually end with women deciding to take up space and revolt in a man’s world, Churails actually begins with the question, “okay, but what happens after that decision?” And the show answers it by managing to address how with every layer of patriarchy that is peeled back we get more and more institutionalized toxic dominance, violence, and power imbalances rooted in sexism.
Seen through the lens of testimonies during a police interrogation, the influence of Big Little Lies on the narrative and characters is obvious from the get go- but there is more than enough originality for it to be an inspiration and not an imitation- especially in the way that the characters are written and performed. The titular Churails played by Sarwat Gilani (Sara), Yasra Rizvi (Jugnu), Meher Bano (Zubaida), and Nimra Bucha (Batool) along with the supporting cast of Churails that forms their team are the realest and most multi-dimensional South Asian female characters seen on screen in a long time.
Their portrayals are extremely believable and praiseworthy- you want to invest emotionally in them, and even if they make questionable choices at times, you do not feel moved to judge them because the plot and acting is just that real. If Zubaida has been verbally and physically abused by her family since she was a child, she actually does make the mistake of going back to them again in the hopes of things changing instead of giving a long speech to them and breaking free at once. If Jugnu is addicted to alcohol to the point where she carries a flask around with her literally every second of every day, it is very clearly shown as a struggle with her demons instead of an empowering habit by virtue of her being a woman.
Also real is the world that they live in, right from the societal dynamics that they interact with to the internal conflicts they face. The show manages to highlight class divisions within the group, the danger of the male brotherhood culture, racism and colourism, and even the toxicness and exclusionary nature of academic circles. But what perhaps stands out is the way that it portrays LGBTQIA+ individuals. Churails has made us reach that moment in streaming history where we get two South Asian middle-aged lesbians belonging to the lower class who have been together since they were teenagers and are unapologetic and out there about their love and affection for each other. It is heartwarming to see them hold each other close on a screen that they aren’t even supposed to occupy according to society.
But Churails does not shy away from showing us the reality of the dual-lives some LGBTQIA+ individuals need to lead for their safety and acceptance, and what happens when the reality of their identity gets found out in a country where it is a crime to belong to the community in what is perhaps one of the most gory episodes in the series. Its representation of the community is not limited to just cis individuals either, with the team of Churails having a trans individual who is given an actual role instead of just token representation. With just as much fierceness and agency as the rest of the cast and actual glimpses of their chosen family outside the circle of Churails, it is an actual fleshed-out role which contributes to the plot and is played to perfection.
Written to be fast-paced and engaging, the show begins at one point and goes through evolution just like it’s characters. Without giving away any spoilers, the twists and turns are actually worth investing in because they are just that good. The dialogues are quotable even out of context, the fairytale motifs are rich and well done, the Bollywood references are funny, and the dark twisting nature of the tale is extremely well-balanced with wit and observational commentary. Whether it is the background score, the positioning of the shots, or the attention to detail that has been put into the set design, every tiny detail in the way that this show has been made contributes to it being a brilliant watch. At 10 episodes long, it is very binge-worthy, but for once I would recommend actually taking every single episode in and paying attention to the Easter eggs and red herrings- it’s very much worth it. The fact that it comes from across the border does not even for a second seem to lessen the message of female agency and feminist liberation that it focuses on, regardless of the stereotypes that our politicians would have us believe- to the Indian viewer, it is definitely an eye opener in more ways than one.