The provincial censor boards in Punjab and Sindh were at odds with the country’s central censor board that refused to give the Shah Rukh and Mahira Khan starrer Raees the go-ahead for screenings across Pakistan, it emerged on Tuesday.
According to a source, the Punjab and Sindh censor boards had passed the film without any cuts but said that they would issue a certificate after consulting the Central Board of Film Censors in Islamabad.
After a full-board meeting which is usually reserved for appeals, however, the central board decided not to issue Raees a certificate on Monday for "inappropriate content."
The source explained that after the 18th Amendment, the Sindh and Punjab boards did not need to consult with Islamabad nor did the central board have any authority over the provincial boards.
The Punjab and Sindh censor boards had passed Raees without any cuts but waited for the Central Board of Film Censors' decision before issuing a certificate. “This is very unusual,” a source said, because “the Sindh and Punjab boards are independent."
“This is very unusual,” the source added. “The Sindh and Punjab boards are independent. The central board claims that the film is anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan."
This comes a little less than a week after the government decided to carry on with the policy to screen international films, which basically means that Indian films can now be shown after the self-imposed ban by Pakistani cinema owners on screening them.
Cine-goers received a bit of a surprise when on Feb 6 the media reported that Pakistan’s Censor Board had not given Raees the green light for its Pakistan release – the film was scheduled to hit the theatres in the second week of this month.
The film that was released immediately after the government’s decision, Kaabil with Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautum as its protagonists, is running in multiplexes and single screens, and doing alright at the box office.
Talking to Dawn about the Raees ban, Cinepax GM Marketing Mohsin Yaseen said, “The Censor Board has told us what made them took the decision. If the board has not allowed it to be screened here, then it must have thought the issue through. It’s okay. There are other films coming up… like Balu Mahi, John Wick and Jolly LLB.”
Mandviwalla Entertainment Chief Executive Nadeem Mandviwalla said, “The government has found it unfit for exhibition, so it is unfit for exhibition. The members of the Censor Board debated the subject therefore automatically we have to rely on that. As far as business is concerned, there are other films which are going to be released soon.”
Film director Syed Noor has often raised his voice against the screening of Indian films in Pakistan.
He does not think that the survival of Pakistani cinemas depends on Indian movies. He said, “If cinema survival depends on Indian films, then how will the Pakistan film industry survive? The government should think about its own films. They have not issued any statement in the last 70 years for its own film industry.”
Renowned cultural critic Nadeem Farooq Paracha said, “I do not watch Indian films, anyway, so I’m not in a position to say anything.”
Actor Behroze Sabzwari talked about Pakistani actress Mahira Khan who stars opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Raees. “From the relatively smaller world of television, she got a chance to work with an Indian superstar.”
Ms Khan could not go to India for the promotion of the film because of the ban imposed on Pakistani artists by Indian producers.
Originally published in Dawn February 8th, 2017