One of the two Pakistani releases this Eid-ul-Azha, Na Maloom Afraad 2, recently went through an episode of getting banned and eventually unbanned by Punjab film censor board. The official notification for the reason of ban states ‘persistent complaints by different quarters’ for the decision, while few independent reports call it the consequence of not being reviewed by the full board earlier.
The truth may lie somewhere in between, but we may never find it for real. The impact of such an action, however, is a real concern. A movie which provides entertainment for around a month and rakes in some twenty crores in business after being initially cleared, suddenly must face a ban, face a life-cut in its ever so short life, and then most importantly face a negative publicity, only to be unbanned few days later with all that baggage. What sort of message are we giving to the potential investors for an industry that is still pretty much in its infancy?
Before the historic 18th amendment, Censor board worked on this structure: Central Board of Film Censors based in Islamabad had two provincial branches, one based in Punjab, and one in Sindh. Local producers having obtained film clearance from the provincial boards could only exhibit the film in that respective province. For issuing a nationwide certification and exhibition, only the central board had the authority, in addition to its monopolistic authority of censoring foreign films, and films from KPK.
Post-18th amendment, however, the central board’s powers have been reduced only to the Capital Territory, while it keeps on censoring the films from KPK in the absence of such a board there to this date. The provincial boards have now been made autonomous and empowered to the extent of censoring foreign films too now. The autonomy, however, remains controversial as in various cases they have been noticed of still taking line from Islamabad (case in point being, Maalik.)
Moreover, with this new structure, there is almost always an issue of delayed process of advance booking for every film, as movies are passed on Thursday nights, leaving cinemas almost no time to set movie timings or sell tickets in advance.
Certification contradiction between “vulgarity,” and violence also exists as movies with “Skin Show” are considered suitable for the ‘Adult Only’ audience, while violence is considered suitable for all. A movie like Ram-leela, for instance, after being heavily censored was released with an ‘Adult certificate,’ but a film like Expendables, which was given an ‘Adult certificate’ worldwide was released with a ‘suitable for all’ certificate in Pakistan. Punjab can be considered the worst in this certification business.
As discussed earlier, banning of movies is another issue. While some cases can be considered genuine, like those of Baby, Phantom, and Ek Tha Tiger, but then there has been a case of Maalik, which was simply banned for reasons nobody understood, and was later reinstated in cinemas, proving how wrong the original decision was.
The debut movie of Arjun Kapoor, Ishaqzaade, released in 2012, too was banned in Pakistan, for apparently the reason that the leads were Muslims, while not even a single thing was against Pakistan in the movie. Similar was the case of Sonam Kapoor’s Raanjhanaa.
Sharukh-Mahira starrer, Raees, too couldn’t release in Pakistan as it was sent to tribunal for further checking even though five out of six members were happy with the content and only one wasn’t, while the rules say that if four clear the movie, it is good to go. Such absurdities hardly ever get commented on by the censor brigade.
At times, it has also been noticed that English movies like, Hansel & Gratel, American Hustle, and Hangover 3, get cleared with nude scenes being present in them, surprising everyone to what actually is the clearance criteria of the censor board.
The cuts given also, at times, are too absurd to say the least, for instance in one scene in Dangal, producers were asked to remove the National Anthem from the film, whereas, those who have watched it uncut would understand how that scene forms the essence of the entire movie. And hello! Indian national anthem gets played in “IPL” too, which by the way gets broadcast live on our local channels.
The different censor boards, in my suggestion, should all unite and adopt the central system of clearance certification, bringing more pace to the process. Movies against the national interest should definitely be barred, but political and influential pressures on such decisions should stop once and for all for the sake of good entertainment.
Censors should be more responsible and look out for the cinema industry. Decisions should be made keeping everything in mind like, national interest, investment protection, movie context, and other such factors. Only then would the censor boards be fulfilling their true purpose.