Review: Kukri is a film of immense substance slashed ruthlessly by the censor board

Limiting the portrayal of sensitive topics hinders us from provoking thought and starting important conversations.
19 Jun, 2023

Kukri stands as a sublime stroke of genius, birthed from an extraordinary surge of unparalleled creativity that coursed through the very souls of the cinematic visionaries adorning the esteemed ranks of Pakistan’s censor board. The culmination is an unrivalled masterpiece, defying comparison. It serves as a testament to their remarkable dedication in subtly weaving profound “aqwal-e-zareen” into the narrative, skilfully avoiding any reliance on abusive language. In Pakistan, the sanctity of language prevails!

Based on the story of the infamous serial killer, Javed Iqbal, who terrorised Lahore in the 1990s by raping and murdering over 100 children, Kukri fearlessly tackles one of the darkest and most complex chapters in Pakistan’s history. It is an exceptionally courageous endeavor, unflinchingly portraying the dread and fear that cast a somber shadow on our nation’s history.

Directed and written by Abu Aleeha, Kukri immerses viewers in an unsettling ambiance right from the start. With extensive disclaimers, haunting scenes of children at play, and an ominous musical score, the film constantly reinforces what lies ahead, creating an eerie atmosphere that keeps audiences on edge. We see a badass female officer (Ayesha Omar) capturing a man who harassed and possibly murdered women and a police commissioner ironically named Malik Riaz dealing with the brouhaha surrounding a letter sent by Javed Iqbal to the Jang newspaper editor, Mr Khawar Nadeem Hashmi.

Soon, we see a bespectacled Iqbal in a plain shalwar kameez coming out of a police van, greeting those around him and later enjoying being interrogated by the police.

Deviating from the prevalent trend of glorification in our industry, Kukri takes the path of realism, providing a rare depiction that focuses on facts and the truth. The film eschews the conventional expectations associated with on-screen villains and instead offers a genuine portrayal of the character, delving into the depths of authenticity rather than resorting to cinematic stereotypes.

The movie also features some fine acting by Yasir Hussain, Rabiya Kulsoom, and Ayesha Omar, who went all out with their respective performances. One dialogue, “Mere bache ko dhondna mera nasha bun chuka hai [Searching for my child has become my addiction],” delivered by Kulsoom particularly stood out for me due to the combination of good writing and delivery.

That said, the movie at times veers into parent-shaming, tone-deaf comedy, excessive romanticisation of the Urdu language, and an unnecessarily preachy attitude, detracting from its overall impact. But we all know why.

“*Kabhi serial killers kay baray mein parha hai tum ne, jo shaks jitna masoom nazar araha hota hai, wo utna hi saffak or bey-reham hota hai [Have you ever read about serial killers? The person who appears as innocent as possible is often the most cunning and ruthless].”*

In the same vein, unnecessary drama caused by the sudden realisations of the police was quite annoying, however, the scenes featuring a slimy journalist and Ayesha Omar’s character scolding her male counterparts were very engaging and hit where it hurts! Interestingly, the movie provides a thread of information for the audience to unravel, allowing them to gradually unfold the intricate details and uncover deeper layers of the story — perhaps the only good thing that came out of extreme censorship!

Having been disappointed by the theatrical cut, I reached out to the producer and learned about the challenges they faced during the movie’s release. They shared the ordeals they encountered and revealed that approximately 22 minutes had been removed from the final cut (including the ending sequence) before its release, due to which the movie seems incomplete.

Now, when a movie dealing with such profound and unsettling issues faces extensive censorship, it inevitably stifles the potential for open dialogue and reflection on these grave societal problems. Films have long served as a medium to raise awareness, provoke thought, and spur conversations about challenging subjects. By limiting the portrayal of such topics, we risk burying them under a veil of silence, hindering progress and perpetuating ignorance.

The case of Zainab and other children in Kasur serves as a stark reminder of the urgency to confront and address the issue of child abuse. Despite widespread outrage and a call for justice, similar cases still occur, suggesting a deeper rooted problem in society.

Speaking on the portrayal of such prevalent issues in the movie, Omar said, “Although it is a small budget film, it carried immense power due to the cause it represented.” She said the importance of sharing Javed Iqbal’s story cannot be overstated, as it aims to create a significant social impact.

“By bringing this narrative to the forefront, we hope to raise awareness among people about the existence of such issues in our society. It is crucial that we empower individuals to recognise and identify those who experience similar hardships and encourage them to report such incidents,” she told Images.

According to a report released by child protection NGO Sahil, cases of child sexual abuse saw a 33% hike in 2022 compared to 2021, with as many as 4,253 cases reported from all four provinces.

It is therefore imperative to recognise that films like Kukri are not the cause of such tragedies — rather, they can act as a mirror reflecting the underlying issues that need attention.

Amidst these challenging circumstances, there is a glimmer of hope. The producer of Kukri, Javed Ahmed, recently revealed his plans to release the uncensored version of the movie on OTT platforms. This decision reflects a step towards ensuring that the film’s unfiltered narrative can reach a wider audience, providing an opportunity for open discussions and fostering awareness on important societal issues.

For now, censor board 1, cinema, 0.