Censorship or lack of confidence

Shabbir Ahmad

Pakistan Censor Board has banned this year’s much anticipated movie “Maalik” after three weeks of its release for being “biased”, inciting violence and promoting vigilantism. The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, and National Heritage issued a notification declaring the Urdu feature film “uncertified” according to Section 9 of the Motion Pictures Ordinance, 1979. According to government officials the film had generated complaints regarding its controversial depiction of the some politicians, Sindhi people and the assassination of a prominent government official by his personal security guard.
Although this movie was discussed as a hope and pride of Pakistan, and it was liked by a huge number of People in its first three weeks. But out of nowhere the censor board banned this movie though the same censor board approved this movie a few weeks ago. The movie highlighted the corrupt elements in our politics and police department which is a reality. It has not generalised the fact that all politicians are corrupt. As for as the ethnic bias is concerned, the movie has shown the corrupt people but also people from the same ethnicity who support girls education and strive for bringing a positive change in the system. Whereas implementing a ban might be considered an overreaction in some countries, it has become the go-to method for the authorities in Pakistan to ban content they deem offensive or controversial. For a common man the possible reason of this ban might be its theme line “mai is mulkka Shehri is mulkka Maalik ho” because Pakistani shehris are common men. How common people can be Maalik in the elitist society of our country?
The most important fact is that Maalik a fictitious movie. Previously a large number of movies in Pakistan have showed “not so good” depiction of some ethnicities, police officials and politicians. Violence has remained the hallmark of our movies especially the Punjabi and Pashto movies but none of those movies faced such consequences. Has government connected this movie with the current political situation of the country? If this is the case then the director should have waited for a “stable” political period but for that he might have to wait forever because political stability is a rare commodity in our country. We have seen a lot ofBollywood or Hollywood movies on such issues. About one third of the Indian movies are based on the flaws in their system like corruption and violence.
In fact a movie “PK” was based on the most sensitive issue of religious dogmas and superstitions. Although some people protested against the movie but the censor board did not ban it and it emerged as the highest-grossing Indian film of all time. Similarly we have seen lot of Hollywood movies in which politicians, security personnel are depicted as bad guys. The trailer of upcoming movie “Snowden” (based on Edward Snowden) clearly shows how US government keeps a check on its citizens. Purpose of stating these examples are that censorship is not meant to restrict the freedom of expression. The purpose of movies has been changed for the last two decades or so. Movies are now not only a source of entertainment but also a medium for highlighting the social issues. If something is wrong in society then people in film industry are obliged to depict these issues in their movies.
Some of the politicians from Sindh province has declared “Maalik’ is an ill-conceived film which will only divide Pakistan and harm national unity. But they have ignored the facts that in this age of technology and free flow of information where a person can access all sorts of information through his smartphone in few moments, how a movie will divide a country. There are several other factors which have harmed national unity and one of those factors is the political forces.
According to the majority of critics, the movie Maalik didn’t create a dangerous situation for the democracy and viewers should not amalgamate it with political system of Pakistan. Again I’ll say that it is fictitious movie. Accepting the movie with its flaws and facts will encourage other directors to give a magnum opus for Pakistani audience. The government should lift ban from this movie to support the Pakistani cinema. If the authorities feel that some parts of the movie are controversial then those scenes should be edited.
Pakistan film industry is going through a phase of revival. We have seen few worth watching movies of international standards during last few years. Directors and producers from the drama industry have entered film industries which have given boost to the later. By implementing a ban on “Maalik” what message has the government sent to the upcoming directors and producers. Instead of such drastic measures, government needs to support film industry by facilitating the movie makers, cinema owners and artists. It will not only help providing healthy entertainment to the public but also result in revenues for the government.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Germany.

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