Despite being cleared by the censor board, the release of Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer has been halted by the Punjab government and the stars of the film aren't pleased.
The film is based on a real serial killer named Javed Iqbal and premiered in Karachi on Thursday. "We had sent this film to three censor boards — Islamabad, Punjab and Sindh," director Abu Aleeha told Images. He said the Punjab and Sindh boards had approved the film but Islamabad had asked for a full board review.
"At that time we were about to premiere within a week that was Dec 24. So then we decided to schedule the film for Punjab and Sindh instead of going deep into the matter. We thought when the film would go up and and we'll receive views and feedback and three days after can appeal Islamabad board with how much the masses liked it. After delaying it for one month now near the release date we held a premiere in Karachi and just a day after the film's release was brought to a halt in Lahore."
Now because it is illegal to premiere during this time, we've decided to fight the case and we've filed our case with Lahore High Court, he explained. We're not concerned about Sindh in terms of cinema and feedback but Punjab because the story is based there. So the producer has decided that we won't release the film anywhere until our case is resolved."
The film stars Yasir Hussain as the titular killer and Ayesha Omar as a police officer who interrogates him. Hussain and Omar have taken to social media to express their disappointment with the film's release being halted in Punjab, as have fellow stars Osman Khalid Butt and Hania Aamir.
The director shared the news on Twitter on Wednesday and said they will be approaching the high court against the decision.
"The latest news is that [Chief Minister] Sardar Usman Buzdar's government has stopped the showing of Javed Iqbal. This unwarranted action comes after the censor board approved the film, which is why we will be [taking the matter] to the high court," he said.
Hussain shared a photo from the film on Instagram and wrote that he still doesn't understand why the film has been banned to begin with. "Is it because of the truth that was shown in the film or did we forget to invite someone to the premiere? Will cricket matches and TV drama serials take over cinemas now? Or will independent filmmakers get a chance too?" asked the actor.
Actor Hania Aamir reposted his Instagram post and used the hashtag #JusticeForJavedIqbalMovie.
His wife, Iqra Aziz also reshared the photo and wrote, "Why can’t we just accept the fact that this really happened in the 90’s. Are comedy films and romantic dramas the entirety of Pakistan's entertainment industry? Our audience says we should show something different, but how? I think PEMRA hasn't heard [of] The Ted Bundy Tapes."
Omar also shared the news and expressed how "sad" it is and said the "film had been passed by all censor boards including Punjab and only then was the release date announced". "Right after the Karachi premiere, two days before the release of the film, the Punjab Government decided to halt the release and review it again. Films like this, based on true events and real-life horror stories, which expose the psychology of psychopath serial killers like Javed Iqbal, talk about issues like child kidnapping, abuse and murder, shed light on the dark side of society and our social construct, are very, very important. They need to be made and they need to be seen."
The Bulbulay star also mentioned how they "worked very hard on this film" and that she hopes that the government makes "the right decision in order for conversations like this to start and continue, for Pakistani Cinema to survive, and also, so that 'inhuman' humans like Javed Iqbal can be identified in society."
She ended her caption with the hashtag #justiceforjavediqbalmovie and asked her followers to help her make the hashtag go viral.
Chupke Chupke star Butt also shared the matter on Twitter and called for the release of the film.
"Halting it 'in the wake of persistent complaints received from different quarters' after it was cleared for release by all censor boards is incredibly vague and a terrible look for the future of Pakistani cinema," he said.
The film is based on the investigation into Javed Iqbal, the serial killer who killed 100 young boys in Lahore and sent evidence wake of his crimes to the authorities and media in 1999. The film has been directed by Aleeha who has written the screenplay of the film as well. It's been produced by Javed Ahmed Kakepoto.