Mumbai/ Lahore, Oct 8 (PTI) British-Pakistani director Asim Abbasi has alleged that his critically acclaimed Pakistani web series 'Churails' has been 'shut down in its country of origin'.
The series, backed by Indian video on demand service Zee5, garnered favourable reviews in India with critics praising the show for a fresh feminist take on intersectional patriarchy.
'Churails' (witches), which started streaming on the digital platform from August 11, follows four Karachi women -- 'perfect wife' Sara (Sarwat Gilani), wedding planner Jugnu (Yasra Rizvi), boxer Zubaida (Mehar Bano) and ex-convict Batool (Nimra Bucha) -- start a detective agency for wives with cheating husbands.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, London-based Abbasi expressed dismay over 'artistic freedom squashed' with his show's unavailability in the country.
'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,' the director, also known for his dysfunctional family drama 'Cake', wrote on Twitter.
Abbasi said the move is 'predictable, and yet, still disappointing'.
'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.' This is a loss for all actors, writers, directors and technicians across Pakistan, who were hoping for OTT platform to be their saviour, the filmmaker said.
'And it's a home-run for all the misogynists who have once again proven that they are the only voice that matters,' he added.
A senior official of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) told PTI in Lahore that it had received complaints about 'Churails' for having vulgar content but it does not come in the purview of the authority.
When contacted the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), an official said 'Churails' has been removed for viewers in Pakistan by the streamer.
'It's a decision by Zee5, and neither PTA nor any other local authority has anything to do with it,' the PTA official said.
When contacted, Zee did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In a post-release interview for the web series with PTI, Abbasi said the reaction to 'Churails' has been mostly positive in Pakistan though there were some 'pockets of noise'.
'But it's ok as long as there is a conversation. Art is a dialogue,' he had said in September.
Last month, Shailja Kejriwal, Chief Creative Officer – Special Projects, Zee Entertainment also told PTI that the success of 'Churails' has inspired the team to unite for a second season though there is nothing official yet.
'Churails' is part of the re-launched Zindagi channel under Zee Entertainment, which paved way for immense popularity of Pakistani stars like Fawad Khan, Sanam Saeed and Mahira Khan by curating their hit dramas 'Zindagi Gulzar Hai' and 'Humsafar' upon its launch in 2014. PTI RDS MZ RDS BK BK