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Meet The Churails

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“When people will watch Churails, they would forget who we are in real and what we have done before but know us only by our characters of Sarah, Jugnu, Batool, and Zubaida, on screens,” say the four leading ladies of a first original web series of Zindagi, a tab on OTT app Zee5.

Written and directed by famous Pakistani filmmaker Asim Abbasi, Churails (meaning witch) is an action thriller series of women from different backgrounds to form a secret agency, with the mission of elevating women and solve their problems. The series has created much hype in just three days of its release and actually a breakthrough in changing in many stereotypes of Pakistani entertainment industry with respect to storyline, script, characterization, dialogue and overall presentation of the product.

According to Asim, Churails is his effort to modify the general meaning of the word in opposite subtext.

Here we meet main cast of Churails and know from them what they are doing in this one of the landmark project of their careers. 

Sarah by Sarwat Gilan

Sarwat Gilani, plays Sarah in Churails, who fights against the various ills in society especially related to women.

“Sarah is a lawyer and living a happy family life in an affluent setup. She loves her husband madly but at a certain point because of his infidelity, she feels broken and during the process of recollecting herself she meets these four women, with different backgrounds but with the same amount of pain as hers, and forms the squad. Her love has changed into vengeance and that fire prompted her to fight for every woman who is betrayed by her husbands,” Sarwat elaborates her character in the series.

Sarwat admits that she has not played the character like Sarah in her 18 years of career.

“Media generally portrays a woman very suppressive and deprived who most of the time, needs a man as her savoir and a guiding force but in Churails, all these women are brave enough to uplift and support each other in fighting their own battle.”

The Jawani Phir Nahin Aani star wants people to not judge this series just by the title but understand its dual meaning, which talks about the issues and ordeal, which women of in Sub-Continental society go through.

About doing collaborative projects among different countries, Sarwat was of view that it was the need of the moment to break the monotony of our subjects and to find new levels and platforms. 

“When we cross boundaries and collaborate, we try to give our best and they also do the same so the combination of these bests always promises for something new and better.”

Sarwat also supports these joined ventures on order to get out of from the stagnant state of Pakistani dramas and films, which are mainly emphasizing for so long on the subject of victimisation of women.

Jugnu by Yasra Rizvi

Yasra Rizvi is portraying Jugnu Chaudhry, who is also Sarah’s best friend. An event planner by profession, Jugnu joins Sarah after facing losses in her business, with primary reason to compensate her damages.  

Telling more about her character, the actress said, “Jugnu is a funny, fashionable and a forward looking kind of woman, who are generally categorized in a certain type by our society. Being the most glamourized in all four Churails, she lacks romance in her life.”

What was something different about her role in Churails, Yasra replied that like Sarwat, she was also tired of being typecast as a poor and oppressed woman on television, but in Churails she is playing a very independent woman who takes control of her life, though faces problems in achieving that state but used all means to get out of this that is why has become arrogant.

Churails would be the ice breaker in taking out our stereotypes characters from boxes of black and white and good and bad to real life people, who act like a normal human beings, she added.  

About collaborative work with other countries, Yasra said there were so many positive perspectives of this initiative especially for Pakistan, firstly to fasten its pace in the digital world and secondly to find a way to be known in the rest of the world.

“I often observe in online commentary on social media that people from different countries pass very harsh comments for each other. It is all because of getting a view of each other from far, existing and living in different societies because of boundaries,” the actress elaborated.

Nimra Bucha as Batool

Nimra Bucha plays the role of Batool, a self-determined woman with middle class background, who is stubborn and violent many a times because of the adversities she has went through.

“Batool has had enough to bear from men and a society and now lead her life on her own terms and conditions’ Nimra added. 

Having a rich background in theatre helped Nimra a lot to portray a complex role with detailing in Churails, “In Pakistan, female characters are most complex and explored in theatres as compared to films and dramas. So, I took Churails as an extension to my theatre experience. We had lengthy session of rehearsals, similar to the month long presentations of stage plays, while the absence of live audiences would be fulfilled through the worldwide reach of digital app”, she further explained.

Nimra was of the view that web portals in general are about to break the many prevailing laws of film and drama industry, “These platforms are not selling commodities, thus not dictated by the advertisers, which set various media’s target audience, and bound them to produce content according to that target. So, with these OTTs, it is the time to change many stereotypes of screens.”

About collaborative work with other countries, Nimra said that it was necessary as Pakistani artists are not distinguished in the rest of the world. “Even in international projects, if there is a character of a Pakistani, the producers don’t hire Pakistani actors as they don’t know about them much.” 

The Manto actor added behind working in Churails was also greed of being recognized in other countries; if not globally at least to the neighbouring country.” 

Zubaid by Meher Bano

Mehar Bano plays Zubaida, a young girl from a poor family, having strict restrictions on her form her parents.

“She wants to become a boxer and gets training without telling at home but when his father came to know about this, he beats and assault her daughter. At that point, one of the Churails rescued her and then inspired by their mission, she also became their part,” Bano explains.

Being a boxer in Churails, Bano has some fighting scenes in the serial as well, “I took special training of boxing and fighting from Liyari to get myself fit for the character. I had to fight with real boxers for three months during which I got injured many a times.”

Recalling an incident during the rehearsals of a fight scene, Bano told that her male co-star blow her so hard that she had to remain on complete bed rest for next few days as the injury had affected her sight as well.

Bano further said that after the shooting of Churails, she came to realize her own powers. “I could never think of fighting so aggressively before Churails”

Mehr Bano is of the view that entertainment industries all over the world progress when there are cultural exchanges of arts and crafts among.

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Raaz-e-Ulfat Very Well Relates to a Pakistani Girl Living in a Strict Household

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Raaz-e-Ulfat is one of the latest dramas that has instantly struck a chord with masses owing to its relatable story-line and amazing performances by the remarkable cast. For the uninitiated, what exactly is the plot?

Putting it briefly, Mushk Iftikhar dreams of exploring the world outside her conservative house. She accomplishes her dream life to some extent when she comes across a friend in her university who introduces her to the colours of life. Though, little does Mushk know that Sehba secretly envies her simplicity and innocence and wishes to ruin her life.

Mushk’s life is somewhat a true depiction of most Pakistani girls belonging to strict households, and hence the show has become more interesting and connecting for the younger lot in Pakistan.

You can’t move a bone without your parent’s permission

Yes! Parent’s approval is mandatory in everything you do. You can’t study, sleep, eat, choose a career, go out, come late, etc. as per your own will. You can only breathe on your own… rest will depend on your parents’ will. Poor Mushk is in the same boat.

Privacy is a luxury you can never afford.

Mushk has got no private space in her house. She shares a room with her sister, like how it is usually in most households. Even when she is on a call with a friend, someone comes to inquire about the whereabouts of the caller. Privacy is indeed an out of the world thing for Mushk and others like her.

You have to be responsible like a grown-up, but you can never act like one.

Like Mushk, most Pakistani youth, particularly girls, are expected to grow up and take responsibilities but are not allowed to think that they have grown up in a literal way. Hence, you are always a bachi/ bacha who is bound to live by what your parents say.

Marriage is your ultimate goal in life

You dream about marriage and your khuwabon ka shehzada because that’s what your parents aim for you on completing your studies.

 

Modern Friends Are A Big No!

You cannot stay in touch with rich and modern friends as they are supposedly some spoilt kids who will definitely leave a bad influence on you.

 

 Dating someone is a big struggle!

Going out on a date is a real struggle yet you want to experience it despite knowing that if your parents find out, you are gone for life.

 

Since the very first episode, Raaz e Ulfat has turned every local TV drama trope on its head to offer a refreshingly new insight by subverting all the typical clichéd plot-lines of most local dramas, bringing forth such nuances that make the entire watching experience oh so relatable and befitting for people around us.

 

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Bunyad Foundation: Countering cerebral health issues with Mindcamp

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Mental health, despite holding paramount significance, is largely ignored in third world countries. With societal progression, the rise of the middle class, and a certain ‘tilt’ or ‘shift’ towards westernization, issues associated with mental health have started to exacerbate. According to recent studies, one of the biggest reasons behind suicidal tendencies or suicide itself is mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and other traumas, different phobias, bipolar disorder, personality disorder and other related disorders.

If we travel a few years back in time, mental health issues were unheard of in Pakistan, in fact, someone found complaining or discussing a mental health issue was either given a particular look or called out for being ‘overly-sensitive’. But over the past few years, things have changed drastically. Now, there are more and more people suffering from mental disorders and psychiatric consultations have increased considerably over time, but even now, a certain amount of people hesitate to seek psychiatric consultation.

The onslaught of Covid-19 has further aggravated the situation throughout the country, with people reporting severe cases of depression and anxiety amid continued lockdowns. It is pertinent to mention here that, although, the issues mentioned are usually associated with urban areas, but the situation in rural areas of Pakistan isn’t much different. Alarmingly, unlike popular opinion, that villages are happy-go-lucky people, even the village dwellers are unknowingly harnessing several mental disorders in this modern age.

In order to facilitate the underprivileged living in less developed, far-flung areas, the Bunyad Foundation in collaboration with Mind organization, has started organizing bi-monthly mind-camps in Hafizabad. The purpose of these camps is to provide free-of-cost facilities to underserved communities. Under these free camps, patients are provided free consultation, medicine and an intervention plan; that too free of cost.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman, Project Lead and founder of Mind Camp Bunyad, told us that, ‘rural folk suffers from the same mental disorders as more privileged people but often the intensity is greater. Most of the people do not have access to basic medication for relief. Since a lot of unhealed psychiatric disorders can lead to physical ill-health, rural folk face a double burden. At Mindcamp Bunyad, our mission is to give suffering villagers a chance at peace and to ease their task in life’.

It took some time, the involvement of Key Opinion leaders and sustained efforts to convince people to seek help for mental disorders and now there’s better awareness about these issues. In addition, the organization has been carrying out these activities for the past 9 years, by engaging experienced and trained mental health professionals, even in extreme weather, just for the betterment of the society. However, now, the number of mental health professionals offering services has dwindled, in fact, the patient-to-doctor/mental health professional ratio is discouraging.

In order for the unabated and unrestricted continuation of these services, and in order for better, sustained facility provision to the patients; financial backing is imminent, without which such a great initiative gradually might have to retreat. To facilitate the imperative service, Bunyad Foundation is playing a major role.

Get in touch with them to see how you can help.

For donations, please donate here.

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Quiet Women: on Surrealism, Beauty and the Female Voice

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Lahore based poet, editor and columnist, Afshan Shafi launched her first full-length poetry collection, ‘Quiet Women’ last month. Stocked at Readings, the collection is a unique all-female collaboration featuring the illustrations of acclaimed artists, Samya Arif (Pakistan), Marjan Baniasadi (Iran) and Ishita Basu Mallik (India).

TS Eliot award nominee and winner of the Forward Prize for Poetry, Vahni Capildeo termed ‘Quiet Women’ as one of the ‘new poetries emerging in the twenty-first century which are characterized by a ferocity that spans yet exceeds love and outrage, involvement and observation’.

 

 

‘Quiet Women’ is an exploration of form and linguistic artistry, propelled by a sense of creative freedom espoused by the surrealists and abstract artists. Inspired by the creations of both Eastern and Western female artists and writers this book is a tribute to women and the power of their collective voices. Afshan Shafi has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Webster Graduate School London. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Wales, Flag + Void, Luna Luna, Clinic, 3 am magazine, Ala Champ Magazine, and others. Her poems have also appeared in the anthologies, Smear (edited by Greta Bellamacina), The New River Press Yearbook and Halal if you hear me ( edited by Fatima Asghar and Salma Elhilo). Her debut chapbook of poems ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) in 2014. For her work as a poet, she has been interviewed by Arte Tv (France) and Words Without Borders. As part of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan she has appeared on BBC (World), The Times (UK), and in The Economist’s culture magazine. She has also served as a poetry editor for “The Missing Slate” and is currently a senior contributing editor at Pakistan’s leading literary journal “The Aleph Review”. She also serves as an editor-in-chief for the online Pandemonium Journal, which is a platform for emerging creatives from Pakistan and abroad.

 

Inspiration to write this book: 

This is my first full-length collection and is a tribute to the panoply of female artists that continue to inspire me. From the creations of Iranian artist Farideh Lashai to the work of lesser-known poets like Veronica Forrest, there is a rich engagement with the work of these female trailblazers in ‘Quiet Women’. What makes the book different is its collaborative nature. Each artist I have collaborated with in ‘Quiet Women’ possesses something unique to their perspective. Samya Arif’s illustrations are defined by their bold and stylized detail. She thinks in an opulent manner. Marjan Baniasadi, hails from Iran and has studied at the NCA and her paintings are elegant, deeply intelligent and beautiful. Ishita Basu who lives in Calcutta, India, is a poet as well as an artist and there is such a yearning and melancholy to her creations. Their art complements my writing seamlessly in the book.

 

 

On how ‘Quiet Women’ came together

 

‘Quiet Women came together over a period of two years, where my poems were being frequently accepted by European magazines for publication. I decided to put together a collection of these poems with some newer verses with the intention to collaborate with artists for the final product. The titular poem of the collection ‘Quiet Women’ deals with the notion of female silence and the policing of a women’s language and her personal choices. For one reason or the other, this notion of ‘quietude’ had been drilled into me from an early age, and as I grew as a writer I started questioning all kinds of enforced silences, which in turn led me to critically examining all kinds of oppressive practices aimed at ‘containing’ the very agency of a woman. ‘Quiet Women’ as a book, functions for me as a bridge across a myriad number of fears; these verses are bridges across patriarchal structures, restrictive artistic ideologies, and perhaps purely existential concerns

 

On the collaboration with artists for ‘Quiet Women’

 

I would say that I have been a student of the Surrealists my whole life, as I have often been drawn to the interplay of artist mediums, in which they reveled. Surreal output has always been concerned with juxtapositions and techniques like ‘collage’ and ‘frottage’, and indulgence in hybridity. For example, Surrealist collaborations include films based on poems, in the way that the filmmaker Man Ray adapted poems by Robert Desnos to his medium. Since my poems are often initiated by visual ephemera, and my imaginative focus is on delineating these visuals (triggered of course by emotion or artistic curiosity), I found collaboration with these artists to be a natural progression. Each artist was sent the poem to illustrate without any instructions, the idea was for there to be a fluidity of connection, one derived purely by imaginative means, and for the artworks to be instinctual and primal.

 

Creative influences and the impact of Surrealism on my work

 

Each poem in ‘Quiet Women’ is a tribute to the marginalised, whether that figure be that of a woman or an artist or poet. Each poem aims to counter reality with the dream and to re-engineer the accepted image of the creative as ‘outlier’. Whether in terms of stylistic experimentation, influence or tribute, this book aims to upset normative modes of thought and glorify one’s creative faculty. The founder of Surrealism, Andre Breton, spoke much of how the imagination is seen as a threat to all dimensions of order, similarly, much of my work is concerned with consistently upending language, mass-perspective and received ideas.

 

On why I enjoy poetry as a genre and as my chosen form

 

A poet often writes a poem as a postscript to an emotion. ‘High tragedy’ or ‘wondrous joy’ need not compel the writing of verse, it could be a retained sense of childlike wonder for say an owl or the precise engineering of a pistol. I feel that I write primarily to escape a powerful inborn reticence. In that vein these words by the great James Joyce encapsulate perfectly the retaliatory bent of my mind as it stitches a sentence together; ‘poetry even when apparently most fantastic is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality’.

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