Banning Bin Laden
The banning of the film in which a nationally heralded youth icon is featured, is a manifestation of a myopic attitude.
Our board of censors is inherently flawed, of dubious intellect and highly erratic in its thinking. Often acting as a right wing morality police, the board of censors has in recent history been responsible for the banning or total perversion of quality theatre, film and television. In a country where new ideas and fresh art has the potential to propel Pakistan forward and to make us think and appreciate a world outside the confines of our four walls, the censors act as a consistent impediment.
On the one hand the current government is making all the right noise about free media and the importance of a vibrant civil society. So, as a manifestation of their belief and intent, a blanket ban has been imposed on the release of Ali Zafar's first ever feature film in Pakistan. The film has been deemed a ‘security risk’ – it appears moral policing has now been muddled with guarding our national interests as well.
We Pakistanis are always quick to criticize Bush Jr and those of his ilk, to hell and back for his cavalier attitude in making militant and provocative declarations and behaving abominably in the interest of ‘national security’ in this war on terror, both within his country and externally. For me, the banning of the film in which a nationally heralded youth icon features, is manifest of this same myopic attitude. While I admit I have not seen the movie, I am open to it and making my own decision on whether it is harmful for me or not - which is my point. When are these censor boards, officious and meddlesome government bodies going to understand that Pakistani’s are not stupid. We can think for ourselves, with or without a classroom education. In fact, the more we are exposed to the arts, both national and international, the more likely we are to learn, imbibe and think. Furthermore, the notion that the screening of this humorous, satirical film will damage the country’s international reputation or cause an upset in the zero sum game of power with India or perhaps further destabilize the country’s precarious security situation is as usual weak. Tell me, where will the ‘democratic’ state draw the line? Data Sahib was bombed as was the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad for instance– are we going to ban shrines and hotels too 'in the interests of national security'? Is that acceptable? Is it not the decision of cinema owners, hoteliers, restraunteers et al to decide whether their respective establishments are safe?
When I first heard of Mr Zafar’s film, my first thought was ‘I wonder if I will get to see it?’ That I have to wonder whether this film will see the light of day in my country is sad indeed. This whole 'will they allow it?’ debate appears almost as a normal reaction.
The reason I am writing so passionately in defence of nationwide screenings and a premiere in Pakistani for Tere Bin Laden is because I returned to Pakistan from England in the hope that I could contribute as much as possible to my country (as clichéd as that may be). Thus, I started my company with the original premise of supporting exciting Pakistani talent and creativity, something my company manifesto still claims to do, some three years later. So to see a talented and hard working Pakistani professional suffer in his own country yet supported and celebrated in countries not indigenous to him, makes me livid. Quite like it did with Dr Abdus Salam - but that’s another blog entirely. Furthermore, I am not comfortable with the politics of it all. My fundamental question here is where does the state draw the line in its interference with the private sector and civil society?
In my opinion, we Pakistani’s should be celebrating Mr Zafar’s movie and given the chance to go en masse to the cinema to support a Pakistani celebrity who has made it to a regional platform on his own – rather than stopping his star from rising in his own country. I want the right to choose and to make my own, informed decision.