A “Naya Pakistan” is what Imran Khan promised. Of course, within days of Khan’s spectacular victory in the general elections, the country went back to a few “purane” habits, which included banning a Bollywood film.
Or has it?
Multiple reports alleged that the Taapsee Pannu and Rishi Kapoor-starrer Mulk has been banned in Pakistan. The film’s producer Deepal Mukut, in a statement, said: “We are disturbed by this prejudiced verdict and it’s such an irony because our film talks about this very prejudice. We urge the Pakistani Censor Board to reconsider their decision. They will realise how essential it is to the well-being of the human race across the world,” and director Anubhav Sinha urged the Pakistani audience to “watch the film illegally, if you must.”
The courtroom drama, which follows the lives of a family torn apart by religion and terrorism and communal polarisation in a charged-up Uttar Pradesh in a charged-up India, has enough material to raise red flags in the censor board on our end of the border; news of Pakistan banning the film thus does not sound out of place at all.
Am I getting banned again? (Photo: Screengrab)
Patriotism, terrorism (unless in movies starring Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan) and the politics of identity (Hindus and Muslim) are all ingredients for a controversial film; though in its execution, many claim it is not so at all. Pakistan, of course, in the past, has banned Bollywood films for much less. After all, Akshay Kumar-starrer Pad Man, a film about menstruation, menstrual hygiene and A Muruganantham, the man who single-handedly invented a machine to produce low-cost sanitary napkins, found itself being banned by the Punjab Film Censor Board for going against Pakistan’s “traditions and culture”.
Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) was banned because Katrina Kaif played the role of an ISI agent. Raanjhanaa (2013) was supposedly banned because the film portrayed an “inapt image” of a Muslim girl (played by Sonam Kapoor) falling in love with a Hindu man and having an affair with him.
Tere Bin Laden (2010), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Agent Vinod (2015), Naam Shabana (2017) were again banned in Pakistan for their portrayal of ISI and terrorism. The Dirty Picture (2011) and Delhi Belly (2011) were banned for adult content. Veere Di Wedding too was banned in Pakistan because of "vulgar dialogues and obscene scenes".
A pattern exists and Mulk can easily fall under one or the excuses given by the Pakistan Censor Board in order to justify such a ban.
But that may not actually be the case.
Maybe. Maybe not. (Photo: Screengrab)
The Express Tribune in Pakistan reported that according to the Sindh Board of Film Censor General Secretary Razzaq Khuhawar, the film hasn’t been submitted to them or to the Central Censor Board. Danyal Gilani, the chairman of the Pakistan Central Board of Film Censors, added that while the trailer of Mulk was banned in the country, the film is yet to be submitted to the board for review. “Members of the CBFC unanimously decided not to approve the trailer of Mulk as its contents flout the Censorship of Film Code 1980,” said Gilani.
If the film hasn’t yet even been submitted for review, why then are the producer and director claiming a ban on it? Is it pre-emptive, given how the trailer has fared? Or is it just another way for the film to receive an extra helping of international publicity, given that the response to the film has been somewhat lukewarm?
Speculation aside, neither story sounds implausible. All publicity is good publicity.
And Pakistan is, well, Pakistan.