From Joyland to Khamosh Pani: A list of Pakistani films that have been banned over the years

This year, the censor board banned Yasir Hussain's Javed Iqbal, Iram Parveen Bilal's I'll Meet You There and Saim Sadiq's Joyland.
15 Nov, 2022

Pakistani cinema has often been criticised on social media for not exploring enough genres and sticking with overly done romantic story arc but the minute a new story arrives in the market, it either gets banned or becomes mired in controversy. We saw that happen before our very eyes with Saim Sadiq’s internationally recognised film Joyland.

The film was given the green light to release in Pakistan on November 18 but a week before its release, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) revoked the censor certificate granted to the filmmaker months ago over written complaints received about the still unreleased film. But is Joyland the only film that has received this treatment in Pakistan? No.

Here are some Pakistani films that have been banned in the country, courtesy of Twitter user Javaria Waseem.

Jago Hua Savera (1959)

Jago Hua Savera told the story of East Pakistani fishermen and their struggles with loan sharks, set and shot in modern-day Bangladesh. Directed by Lahore-based director A J Kardar, the film boasted a screenplay by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. However, just days before its premiere, it was stalled by General Ayub Khan. It was a joint production of East and West Pakistan.

Jibon Theke Neya (1970)

Zahir Raihan’s political satire Jibon Theke Neya (1970) was a Bengali-language Pakistani film that the government had repeatedly tried to halt. According to IMDb, the film portrayed the Bengali Language Movement of 1952 and was a tribute to the martyrs of the movement. The story presents a dominating image of a woman in a family consisting of her husband, two brothers and servants. It symbolised Ayub Khan’s regime while representing 1969’s mass uprising and the arrest of political workers.

Insan Aur Gadha (1973)

Insan Aur Gadha was a political satire film by Syed Kamal. The film stars famous comedian Rangeela and was a satirical take on the human condition in Pakistan. Rangeela played the human version of a donkey who had prayed to God to transform him into a human being. Weeks after its release, the film was banned by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government based on a scene from the film that was a parody of the political leader.

Aurat Raj (1979)

Produced and directed by Rangeela, film Aurat Raj was one of the first Pakistani feminist movies. It was released to much hype, ran in cinemas, and was then banned.

Maula Jatt (1979)

Punjabi musical Maula Jatt directed by Younis Malik was banned shortly after its release due to its “excessive sexual content and violence”. However, the producer was able to acquire a stay order. The film starring Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi and Aasia got a two-and-a-half year run in cinemas and saw widespread commercial success.

The Blood of Hussain (1980)

The Blood of Hussain is a fantasy drama by Jamil Dehlavi which was based on the story about the life and death of the youngest son of a Pakistani family. However, the film was banned during the Zia ul Haq regime as it portrayed a fictional military coup in a less than favourable light.

Zar Gul (1997)

Directed by Salmaan Peerzada, film Zar Gul was unable to obtain clearance from the government for wider distribution throughout Pakistan. According to IMDb, the film is about a young Pathan who becomes an outlaw, but hero to the poor, after his father is killed by a crooked politician.

Khamosh Pani (2003)

Khamosh Pani was directed by Sabiha Sumar. It stars Bollywood’s Kirron Kher, Aamir Ali Malik, Indian choreographer Navtej Singh Johar and more. Khamosh Pani, also known as Silent Waters, was based on a Southern Punjabi family affected by the increasing religious radicalisation under the regime of Zia ul Haq. The film was banned way before it was reviewed because of the Indian actors in the film.

Slackistan (2010)

Slackistan was an independent film directed by Hammad Khan. It’s based on a young man who is juggling his personal and professional life while living in Pakistan during political turmoil. The CBFC banned the film for swear words in both English and Urdu.

Maalik (2016)

A political-thriller directed by Ashir Azeem, Maalik stars Farhan Ally Agha, Adnan Shah Tipu, Hassan Niazi, Sajid Hasan and more. Nearly eight days before it was supposed to hit theatres, the film was banned by the Sindh censor board and Sindh government. However, in September of 2016, the ban was lifted by the Lahore High Court and the film was permitted to play on limited screens.

Among the Believers (2016)

Among the Believers is a documentary directed by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi. It was banned by the CBFC for “dialogues which projects (sic) the negative image of Pakistan in the context of ongoing fighting against extremism and terrorism”.

Besieged in Quetta (2016)

Beseiged in Quetta, a documentary directed by Asef Ali Muhammed was also banned the same year. The CBFC issued a statement similar to the one it had provided for Naqvi’s documentary, saying that it portrays a “negative image of Pakistan”. The documentary is about the plight of Quetta’s Hazara community.

Verna (2017)

Directed by Shoaib Mansoor, Verna stars Mahira Khan, Haroon Shahid, Rasheed Naz, Naimal Khawar and Zarrar Khan. It was banned by the CBFC who stated, “The general plot of the movie revolves around rape, which we consider to be unacceptable.” After the board was heavily criticised for its decision, the film released without any censors in November 2017.

Durj (2019)

Durj is a mystery film written and directed by Shamoon Abbasi. Based on true events, revolving around cannibalism. The film was banned by the CBFC as they cited it being “inappropriate” for public viewing. Though later it was released three years ago.

Zindagi Tamasha (2019)

Directed by Sarmad Khoosat, film Zindagi Tamasha shows an intimate portrait of a family who lives in Lahore including a man who writes, composes, and even records religious hymns. But one day, he attends a close family function where he inadvertently shows off a dance in front of his friends which makes it to social media and chaos begins for him and his family. The release of the film was suspended after the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) announced protests against the film. Khoosat was also accused of blasphemy.

Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer (2022)

Abu Aleeha’s film Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer is based on the investigation into Javed Iqbal, the serial killer who killed 100 young boys in Lahore and sent evidence of his crimes to the authorities and media in 1999. It was banned by the Punjab government and since then there has been no update on the film’s release. The film stars Yasir Hussain and Ayesha Omar.

I’ll Meet You There (2022)

Film I’ll Meet You There by Pakistan-American filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal was rejected by the CBFC a week before its release in Pakistan. The board said the film “does not reflect true Pakistani culture, portrays a negative image of Muslims” and is against the “social and cultural values of Pakistan.”

Joyland (2022)

Sadiq’s film Joyland, that made news for winning the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard segment at the Cannes Film Festival, was recently banned by the CBFC. It claimed that the “film contains highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society and is clearly repugnant to the norms of ’decency and morality; as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979.” Despite initially approving the film for release, the federal government declared Joyland “uncertified” and revoked its censor approval on the basis of complaints by people who have not seen the film.