Celebs deem 'Churails' ban devastating blow to creative freedom in Pakistan

Actors express anger towards the growing censorship within and increased bans on the content available to the country

Entertainment Desk October 08, 2020

Asim Abbasi's critically acclaimed Zee5 web-series Churails was made inaccessible for the Pakistani audience after a clip from the show went viral on Twitter on Wednesday.

The video featured veteran actor Hina Khawaja Bayat’s character Sherry speaking explicitly about the sexual favours she had to give in exchange for job promotions. The scene enraged netizens who claimed that “such dialogues” could “spread vulgarity” and demanded that instead of banning biscuit advertisements over “excusable” dance moves, such content should be removed.

While others argued that the scene depicted exactly the kind of favours that are expected of women under certain professional capacities, the Indian OTT platform banned the series’ from streaming in Pakistan altogether. “It has not been blocked by PTA. Zee5 has removed it due to objections on the content from the public,” a PTA spokesperson told The Express Tribune.

Following the ban, Abbasi took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his frustration towards the increased censorship in Pakistan. "How strange for Churails to be lauded internationally and now be shut down in its country of origin,” he asked.  

“In the very country where hundreds of artists came together to create something that could initiate dialogue and open doors for new narratives, artistic freedom has been squashed because it is wrongly perceived by some as a moral threat,” added the director and writer of the series.

“Predictable, and yet, 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 continued.

“This is a loss for all actors, writers, directors and technicians across Pakistan, who hoped for digital/OTT to be their saviours. And it's a home-run for all the misogynists who have once again proven that theirs are the only voices that matter.”

Now, several celebrities have amplified Abbasi’s voice, resonating similar concerns about the growing censorship that is snubbing creative freedom in the country. “Oh, you got Churails banned? Congratulations! Now please focus your outrage on the fact that police have failed to arrest the prime accused in the motorway rape incident,” wrote actor Osman Khalid Butt.

Enraged, he pointed out the most popular searches on Pakistani Netflix, naming films and show like 365 DaysDark DesireHot Girls Wanted and Newness to take a jibe at the public that moral policed Pakistani actors and directors over the content they produce. Butt then asked if media was really responsible for spreading vulgarity, then what about the “children molested in the house of God?”

In another tweet, he pointed out how the majority of Pakistanis couldn’t even afford to subscribe to OTT platforms and thus, demanding a ban on something only a minority could watch was unreasonable to begin with.

Sanam Saeed also expressed similar sentiments. “Banning dancing ads, outspoken films and web-series will not end rape if that's the agenda. Why are we riddled with such hypocrisy? Buss bandh darvaazon kay peechay ho sub (Everything should happen behind closed doors?)” wrote the actor. 

“God forbid hamari bholi awaam influence na ho jai (What if our ‘innocent’ audience is badly influenced) if we take creative liberties to be honest and open.”

Anoushey Ashraf felt that banning creative freedom could not propagate evil but at least it could inform people about it. “Good or bad, Churails is a (web) series. Those who don’t want to watch it don’t have to, but ‘banning’ freedom of expression and art is very regressive in 2020. Like banning anything has worked ever. If anything, I really want to see the series now,” she wrote.

Laal Kabootar actor Mansha Pasha went as far as deeming the current scenario as a “Zia-esque time of moral policing, whereby the state silences journalists, runs after biscuit ads and bans OTT content.”

She wrote, “What started off as a causal critique by bloggers of what content should or shouldn’t be on TV has now turned into full blown censorship. No more complaining and comparing our local productions to foreign. The industry cannot flourish with constant attempt to control, silence and subvert.”

Television actor Zhalay Sarhadi also took to Twitter to express her disappointment. “With regards to Churails, it is a shame that our moral brigade wants to only promote hypocrisy. 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!”

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.


Saadat | 2 years ago | Reply

Bravo! Excellent step by the government! "Churail " should have been banned.

shakeel mahota | 2 years ago | Reply

It's not the content but the way to present it that matters. The challenge is in presenting ugly realities of life in a non-offensive, creative and oblique manner. The audiences can be touched or shocked without presenting things in an explicit or graphic manner.

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