Why Pakistan is right in banning Phantom

After all, there's nothing in the Kabir Khan film that shows the terror-stricken nation in a good light.

 |  3-minute read |   28-08-2015
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About halfway through Kabir Khan's latest film Phantom, comes a scene where Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) calls up the Pakistan High Commission in London. His demand is simple: get the High Commissioner on the line. On the other end of the line, the High Commissioner responds in a few seconds, once Daniyal tells the receptionist that he has information about the death of someone. This "someone" in discussion is Sajid Mir, the fictional counterpart of the real-life Pakistani spy by the same name, whose existence the country has denied time and again. While speaking to the High Commissioner, this random person gets to say that he wants to go to Pakistan and meet the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, Hariz (read: Hafiz) Saeed.

Right after the scene, Daniyal is seen explaining his move to his comrade-in-arms Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif). He explains that if the Pakistan government has been denying the very existence of a person for all these years, how will they now hold anyone responsible for his death?

hafiz-saeed-story-64_082815072604.jpg Shahnawaz Pradhan as Hariz in Phantom.

A few weeks ago, Lashkar Amir and 26/11 Mumbai Attacks' mastermind Hafiz Saeed moved court in Pakistan seeking a ban on Phantom. His wish was granted. Pakistan did not let Phantom release in the country. Right after the verdict from the Lahore High Court, director Kabir Khan, Saif and Hussain Zaidi, whose book Mumbai Avengers the story of the film is based on, held a press conference. Here, they expressed their "shock" at Pakistan's decision to ban the film just on the basis of its trailer. But then, Pakistan had seen way too much in that two-minute clip itself.

Now, as the film is watched and debated, there's but one thing that comes to mind: exactly what is Kabir Khan's shock all about? Had he seriously thought that the Pakistan government would clear a film as out-and-out anti-Pakistan as Phantom (irrespective of what he claims)?

While making Phantom, the brains behind the film should have anticipated the ban. After all, there's nothing in Phantom that shows Pakistan in a good light. By "Pakistan", I mean the Pakistani government. Not the people. Pakistani people, at least in Kabir Khan's world, are happy to help absolute strangers and go against the state and people as powerful as Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi. Phantom shows the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) repeatedly calling Saeed "Sheikh sa'ab", providing Z-grade security to him, sealing the borders shut after things go awry. And no matter how benevolent a light you show Pakistani nationals in, helping strangers who have sworn vengeance against Lashkar, there's no way on earth the state will clear the film. Because of the simple reason that it is the state - the government, the courts - which decide whether to clear a film or stay its release. Pakistan is a democracy; on paper, yes. But time and again, the rest of the world has been reminded of the (lack of) meaning of that word in the country. State machineries, contrary to what pedestal Kabir Khan might have placed the Pakistan government on, will never have a film bashing Pakistan this hard release in the country. Like the wishful tale called Phantom, the mere wish that the film could have been released in Pakistan too is just that: a wish. A wish, which will never see the light of the day.

Irrespective of the inherent goodness of the people of the two countries, India and Pakistan can never be friends. Not that it is a necessity, but maybe we should just let go of that illusion that Aman Ki Asha advocates. Even in times of peace, it is a simmering discontent between India and Pakistan. From peace talks not being paid any heed to, to the numerous ceasefire violations that we've had to deal with in the last few months, and to the ban on a film which supposedly highlights the kindness of Pakistanis, the answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. No matter how many Bajrangi Bhaijaans want you to believe otherwise.


Ananya Bhattacharya Ananya Bhattacharya @ananya116

Books for the mind; heels for the feet; travel tales for the soul. And conversations. Too much to ask for, eh? ~ Assistant Editor at @IndiaToday

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