Two Pre-Covid Gems On Zee 5: Churails And Rangbaaz

Here are two films streaming on digital platform Zee5 which one shouldn't miss out on

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Two Pre-Covid Gems On Zee 5: Churails And Rangbaaz
Churails: Churails thrives on throwing repartees into conversations that seem snatched from the world around us without seeming to cannibalize from any secondary source. The beauty of the gleaming surface secretes some truly ugly home-truths.(Speaking of cannibalism, this is Zee5’s second series in row after Abhay where cannibalism is prominently featured.Quite a flesh-in-pan is thereby cooked up).

Churails shies away from neither the gleaming elitist ambience nor the ugliness that lies beneath. It is remarkably balanced and non-judgmental about a society that is intrinsically imbalanced and incurably judgmental .Into this simmering implosive cauldron of cosmopolitan chaos walk fource self-willed Pakistani women , each a non-crushable force to reckon with. Each ravaged to varying degrees by patriarchal bullying . The most hard-hit of the quartet is the thunderous Batool(Nimra Bucha, powerful)) a woman who can fell you to the ground writhing with just one freezing look. No one would dare to mess around with Batool. But many did in the past.This is a haunted woman hunting for men who have plundered the dignity of womanhood since Adam mated with Eve.While Batool is the strongest of the characters, Sara(Sarwat Gilani, beautiful and effective), a socialite married to a powerful politician in the making, is no less persuasive in her determination to mend the wrongs that she’s seen repeatedly inflicting on her self-worth.

Sara has a brilliant dinnertable sequence with her uppity mother-in-law who spares no opportunity to insult her as the old lady’s obedient son watches his wife being humiliated in front of her little children. The sequence has classic resonances digging its heels deep into the gender prejudices that control the way women in third-world countries are treated, even the privileged ones, who are disempowered by those very men in their lives who pretend to empower them.

The other two ‘Churails’ Jugnu(Yasra Rizvi) and Zubaida(Mehar Bano) come out relatively pale, lacking the eloquent space that Batool and Sara create out of their characters’ raw wounded pride.While the writing is uniformly impeccable, at least until the first 7 episodes(after which the pursuit of a proper climax kills some of the series’ overall power and impact), the writer-director Assim Abbasi(see his earlier feature film Cake again about strong women in pursuit of their identity) displays a tendency towards the latter-half of the series, to cram in too many prototypes: the troubled lesbian couple, the torn transgender, the closeted gay husband who comes out to a gruesome end, the little boy who is encouraged by his mother to play with dolls if he so wishes, the trophy wife searching for her self-worth, the abused wife searching for her daughter, the Pakistani wife coping with an inter-racial marriage….        

Man, there is hell to pay! Providentially the male characters are not demonized just to portray the female heroes in flattering light. My favourite character is Jamshed, a seemingly insensitive cop played with exceeding sensitivity by Fawad Khan(no,not that overrated one from Khubsoorat). Jamshed’s transformation by love is one of the strengths of this powerful and resourceful drama , filled with surprises, warmth, honesty and, yes, pain.      

Rangbaaz :The crux of the newly-discovered creative freedom on the web-format is how effectively that freedom is used. Rangbaaz the new webseries about swaggering gangsterism in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh,scores pretty high in the sphere of restrained freedom. The maderc..d and teri maa ki quotient is kept at a surprisingly low level.To depict the lowlife a filmmaker needn’t stoop low.And though the characters belong to the crass roots they don’t pump up their aggression level with perverse dialogues. In one section of the judiciously-crafted narration where frills and fireworks are never appended on for no reason, the protagonist Shiv Prakash Shukla(Saqib Saleem) is whisked off to Bangkok with a politician’s goon. The interlude could have comfortably embraced sleaze. Instead the narrative builds a credible camaraderie between the two men and a startling yet subtle game-plan for Shukla initiation into the world of crime. Depiction of exploitation of the weaker sections and the rise of the Criminal Hero has been a fairly routine formula in a certain kind of ground-level cinema patented by the likes of Anurag Kashyap and Tigmanshu Dhulia.

The latter, incidentally puts in quite a credible performance as a cunning politician on the prowl looking for young vulnerable recruits to his dirty job.The engrossing series is carpeted with solid performances, none more so that Saqib Saleem who nails Shukla’s journey from innocence to a gleeful almost sadistic pleasure in taking lives…Saqib maps the darkening personality with a diligence that we never saw coming. This performance is an opportunity of a new awakening for the actor , and he nails it.While telling a story that never slackens in pace Rangbaaz also makes space to apprise us of the political scenario of the 1990s when job reservations created a prominent caste cleft in North India.

Sturdily crafted and persuasively told Rangbaaz brings alive the nexus between politics and crime in the 1990s , a nexus that has only grown with time. I only wish the series didn’t have to rely so heavily on the film songs of the era to recreate an authentic mood of the period. It’s like putting too many signposts on the road to perdition.

Image source: IMDb