The curious case of the 'Maalik' ban

The film was banned by the Sindh censor board only for a few hours. But why?

Hasan Ansari April 27, 2016
The film was banned by the Sindh censor board only for a few hours. But why? SCREENGRAB

KARACHI: The fate of Ashir Azeem’s military-drama Maalik seemed to be hanging by a thread on Tuesday, April 26 after the film was banned for a period of three months by the Sindh Board of Film Censors (SBFC). However, in a stunning turn of events the SBFC went back on their decision as the decision was overturned within the span of a few hours.

According to a copy of the notification — issued by the SBFC — the decision to ban the film was taken after an "inspection" of the movie was conducted at a local cinema and it was discovered that Maalik was being screened without the excisions recommended by the censor board.

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One of the major talking points of the notification was how the word ‘CM’ (Chief Minister) was supposed to be beeped or removed from the film prior to its exhibition in cinemas.

Feeling that the whole issue was “needlessly blown out of proportion”, Secretary of SBFC, Abdul Razzaq Khuhawar explained that the decision to suspend Maalik was made keeping in mind the Sindh Motion Picture Act 2011.

The SBFC has come under even more scrutiny on social media avenues following the decision, considering that the movie has been screening for the past three weeks. Defending the SBFC's stance, Khuhawar said that they only learnt that the movie was being screened without the necessary changes only a few days ago and had acted promptly on the news.

“Unfortunately the post of Inspector at SBFC has been vacant for quite some time so we don’t have someone who can visit cinemas to check if the films are being screened as per the guidelines. It was only after we visited a local cinema that we came to know about what was happening.”

He also clarified that distributors and producers of the film had been informed in advance to remove the words ‘CM’ from the movie. “When we informed them about the excisions made by the SBFC panel they had agreed to all of them as only after that could the film have been cleared for release,” elaborates Khuhawar.

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He added that when the producers and distributors were informed that Maalik was going to be banned for three months, they accepted the error on their part and rectified their mistake. “They said it was an oversight on their side after which they made the desired cuts. So we lifted the ban as we do not feel that we should harm any movie’s box office,” proclaims Khuhawar.

On the other hand, director Ashir Azeem’s side of the story differed from the one told by the SBFC. Reiterating that the SBFC had made no such recommendations he said, “The only excisions they had asked us about were to remove certain words from the oath taking ceremony to which we complied. It was only a few days ago that they asked us to remove the words ‘CM’ so we agreed to that as well.”

“The film was banned on Tuesday afternoon and the suspension was lifted in the evening. How can we make the alterations in such little time and then distribute the prints for exhibition in cinemas. That’s not possible,” he added.