Battling censorship | Pakistan Today

Battling censorship

  •  Churails exposed the hypocrisy in our society

Churails is the first online series helmed by a Pakistani director Asim Abbasi with a completely Pakistani cast. The series, deemed feminist by its creators, revolves around cheating, women empowerment, domestic abuse, and other sensitive issues, including homosexuality. This has made the show ‘edgy’ for the audience of traditional Pakistani television. In the immediate aftermath of its trailer, the series started facing criticism from the masses, with many dubbing it ‘against our cultural values’, and ‘propaganda against our traditions’.

Nonetheless, the show received immense popularity and praise after it was released on Zee5 in August this year. Many TV critics laud the show for its cinematography, layered storyline, and virtuoso performances by all leading actors, especially Yasira Rizvi, Sarwat Gillani and Nimra Bucha. The show tackles the issues, which are very visible in our society like wife-beating, subjugation of daughters and forced marriages. One aspect of the show, lauded by many, is how it discusses the realities which prevail in our society, but no one is ready to talk about them – including homosexuality. The director has also been appreciated in depicting the storyline masterfully.

Many were unsurprisingly offended, questioning the ‘audacity’ of a Pakistani drama. Those criticising the individuals taking such offense say that those expressing outrage ignore the realities of our patriarchal society, and prefer to express their anger at a fictional character. However, the outrage persisted and eventually what many expected took place.

The reaction to the show underlines that many appreciate it, and many don’t. TV critics are in agreement that the show stands out as a Pakistani series on an online platform. Whereas, many on social media have demanded that the show be banned, ever since its trailer first came out. However, the calls for the show to be taken down grew in recent weeks after a clip featuring Hina Bayat went viral on social media. The clip discusses the sexual favours that the character had to give in order to progress in a male-dominated world.

Many were unsurprisingly offended, questioning the ‘audacity’ of a Pakistani drama. Those criticising the individuals taking such offense say that those expressing outrage ignore the realities of our patriarchal society, and prefer to express their anger at a fictional character. However, the outrage persisted and eventually what many expected took place.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) requested Zee5 to take down the series, only for Pakistan. The online platform obliged and the drama was banned in Pakistan.

The decision faced severe criticism, especially from the director and the showbiz industry. The actors and actresses call it an attack on freedom of expression and hypocrisy of our society, where you can do anything behind closed doors, but cannot discuss it in the dramas.

After the ban, director Asim Abbas said it was strange the drama got international praise, but was banned in the country of its origin, where hundreds of artists and technicians worked hard to make it.

“Artistic freedom squashed because it is wrongly perceived by some as a moral threat. Predictable, and yet, still disappointing,” Abbasi said. “For this is not just my loss. This is a loss for women and marginalized communities that this show meant to re-represent,” he added.

Actor Osman Khalid Butt, who is quite vocal on different issues also expressed his anger and called out the double standards of the Pakistani audience, where adult content on Netflix is among the top searches in Pakistan.

“Popular Netflix searches in Pakistan: 365 Days – a top search since it came out, Dark Desire (also in the Top 10), Hot Girls Wanted, Newness – yeah I’m sure you’re all watching these for the plot,” he said.

Actor Sanam Saeed also pointed out the hypocrisy of the people, while pointing out that you can do these things behind closed doors, but can’t talk about them. “Banning dancing ads, outspoken films and web series will not end rape if that’s the agenda. Why are we riddled with such hypocrisy?” she asked.

Actor and host, Zhalay Sarhadi said that our TV dramas can show the harassment of women, but you cannot discuss it openly. “We can show women being harassed and maligned but if they want to initiate dialogue and take power into their own hands, it scares us? Cowardly act to shut it down! Shame,” she exclaimed.

After much criticism, Churails is back online and people can now watch it. It is being celebrated as a victory for the director, actors and those who want to see such content, the audience that wants to watch something different to regular Pakistani drama. However, the battle against censorship for progressive TV shows is likely to continue.



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