Churails Image Credit: Zee5 Global

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has reportedly taken down female-centric Pakistani drama series Churails for Pakistan-based viewers on an online streaming platform and social media users as well as entertainment industry professionals are not happy.

The show had been streaming on India-based streaming platform Zee5 since August 11 but it is no longer available to Pakistan-based audiences. The streaming service is yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Controversy around ‘Churails’

A clip of the series has been circulating on social media with one of the characters, Sherry, played by veteran actor Hina Khawaja Hayat, talking about a sexual act. After the video was shared extensively online, many deemed the show “vulgar”.

Twitter user @_SuniyeGaa wrote: “[…] using vulgar language is not women empowerment we do support empowerment but not at the cost of spreading vulgarity in the society #Churails”

However, a large number of social media users and Pakistani celebrities expressed their dismay at the ban, calling it a step back in the movement towards women empowerment in the country.

Actor Osman Khalid Butt, @aClockworkObi, tweeted: “Oh, you got Churails banned? […] Now please focus your outrage on the fact that police have failed to arrest the prime accused in the motorway rape incident.”

Tweep @maryamful thought that such content is crucial for highlighting women’s issues: “Apparently #Churails is taken down for Pakistani viewers. But it’s released internationally, so everyone but Pakistanis will savour the honest Pakistani female storytelling.”

Similarly, Twitter user @ShamoonIsmail posted: “Churails shows the sides of society that very much exist in reality. So if re-enactment of it is considered vulgar by some I would suggest them to actually do something to stop forced marriages and rapes rather than putting a blindfold on by just banning it.”

User @ImaanZHazir tweeted: “Churails is not the problem, really. Your problem is women. Our society hates women. This is beyond dispute. Question for us (women) now is what are we going to do about it? Have said it before, will say it again: this system needs to be dismantled. And women have to do it.”

Director speaks out

Speaking about Zee5 removing the series, Churails’ writer and director Asim Abbasi expressed that although he expected it but he was disappointed by the move.

Abbasi, @IllicitusProduc, condemned the decision in a series of tweets on October 7.

“How strange for #Churails to be lauded internationally, and now be shut down in its country of origin. In the very country where hundreds of artists came together to create something that could initiate dialogue and open doors for new narratives,” he posted.

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

The show featuring actresses Sarwat Gilani, Nimra Bucha, Mehar Bano, and Yasra Rizvi, revolves around them playing secret detectives in the city of Karachi whose mission is to expose the city's unfaithful, elite husbands.

Many in the country have deemed the series showcasing the burqa-clad women tackling patriarchal norms as a “feminist” show, prompting some to say that it goes against Pakistan’s cultural values.