Filmmaker Asim Abbasi’s latest outing, web show Churails released in US recently. The Pakistani crime drama made him feel like second coming, as it released in the US after almost a year of the show premiered in south Asian markets.
The director says his writing for the show was mainly influenced by shows and films with strong but flawed women protagonists. “ I come from background of film theories, I have done a lot of study on gender, how the female gaze and the male gaze work in cinema. Books like Bad Feminist and The Second Sex have also influenced my understanding of things,” he says.
He also shares how one character in the show challenged him while writing dialogues. “Films can have non-dialogue scenes and TV tends to be dialogue-heavy. Batool (one of the four protagonists on the show, essayed by Nimra Bucha) allowed me to challenge myself. Between all the outspoken women, she had this stoic personality where she was only communicating through movement of eyes, face and jaws. That was exciting as a writer and director, it was also a challenge that I cannot give her dialogues.”
Churails addresses several issues that trouble women in patriarchal societies of south Asia. Asked if he was skeptical of criticism and backlash back home, he says, “When I started writing, in knew it was for an international audience. During the early days of thoughts of writing the show, I am sure it (thoughts of how the content will be received in Pakistan and India) crossed my mind but the support system (show producers) was so strong it helped me go ahead with whatever I need to say as a storyteller. If I can only show that which is acceptable in the society, I am not pushing enough boundaries. And honestly, it was not like I had a bucket list of issues and we kept ticking those off while writing. We just wanted to address the issues that caused rage in these four women and their kind of personalities.”
About the US release, Abbasi says, “It feels like a second coming. It has been a while, almost a year. It was an exciting time (South Asia release) and feels that excitement is coming back. US is a really important market, it is a massive market with so many south Asians the diaspora.”
(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)