Nearly three weeks after its release, Ashir Azeem’s directorial debut Maalik landed in hot waters when the film was banned all across the country by the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on Wednesday. This has not fared well with the film industry, which has been unanimous in its criticism of the government’s decision.
Speaking to The Express Tribune renowned writer and film-maker, Javed Jabbar said that regardless of the final decision, it should never have taken the provincial and federal bodies three weeks to interpret the policies or content of the film. “That is something that should have been dealt within the space of 48 to 72 hours,” he said. Although the Ramchand Pakistani writer had not yet seen the film but he has heard reports saying the film had given a very one-side depiction of politicians and glorified the armed forces. “If that is the case then the film-makers should be held guilty artistically, not in the court of law,” he added.
The curious case of the 'Maalik' ban
Famous for speaking his mind, film-maker Jami also expressed his disappointment at the decision, describing it as a step backwards for an industry still finding its feet. “I don’t think banning is the solution to the problem. We as a nation have this tendency to make an issue out of virtually anything,” said the Moor director.
Recalling his own distressing experiences when Moor was being censored by the provincial and federal censor boards, he called for the institutions to take up more relaxed policies. “Currently all these censor boards have very strict policies in place. They need to change their approach and think a little progressively otherwise our film industry will reach a point-of-no-return.”
One of the major talking points of Maalik has been its portrayal of particular ethnicities. Although it is not mentioned in the movie directly, many observers have pointed out to how the character of the chief minister and his aides paints Sindhis in bad light. Veteran television and film actor Samina Peerzada felt that nothing whatsoever justifies the decision made by the information ministry. “Each and every one has the right to pinpoint anything they feel is wrong within the system or our society — that is the essence of democracy.”
K-P govt gives cinemas go-ahead for screening ‘Maalik’ despite ban
While this may be the first instance of a movie being banned in the country weeks after its release, not many are hopeful that anything good will come out of this late decision. Producer-writer of Waar and director of the upcoming-movie Yalghaar, Hassan Waqas Rana said that it was another instance of people unnecessarily over-reacting to a film.
Comparing the claustrophobic environment that Pakistani film-makers operate in as opposed to the liberty film-makers of other countries enjoy, he believed this was not a good omen for the future of motion pictures in the country. Citing the example of Clint Eastwood’s Absolute Power in which a United States president sexually harasses a woman, he argued that one could never imagine a Pakistani film-maker showing something similar and going unpunished.
“It is like living in a dictatorship. What will happen now is that people will stop making movies like these out of the fear of getting banned. The little bit of originality that was there is being killed and what you will have more of now is romantic-comedies. And everyone knows how difficult it is for our rom-coms to compete with Bollywood films of the same genre.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2016.
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