‘Maalik’ ban is our lowest ebb

Published: May 3, 2016
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The ban on Maalik was nothing short of a pelvic thrust in the middle of the ballroom.

The ban on Maalik was nothing short of a pelvic thrust in the middle of the ballroom.

We saw light at the end of the tunnel but it turned out to be an oncoming train. After taking many groundbreaking decisions, such as the uncut release of Manto, which also featured the Indian national anthem, the Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) chameleon approach has once again put the artist at a crossroads with his imagination. Post-18th Amendment, the role of the CBFC has been reduced to that of a loner at a prom night. However, that doesn’t mean the CBFC does not shake a leg every now and then. The ban on Maalik was nothing short of a pelvic thrust in the middle of the ballroom.

To be fair, the decision was nothing short of an ideal response to a national emergency; as if our nukes were at stake. Perhaps, they really were; you’re never sure when it comes to the censor boards.

SHC allows information ministry two weeks to explain ‘Maalik’ ban

The Maalik issue has nothing to do with love for the country or protecting the interests of certain ethnic groups. For no matter how twisted your understanding of patriotism is, it never results in the murder of dissent and discourse. Instead of letting people discuss and debate on what a work of art may have misrepresented, so that we could actually progress intellectually, the authorities decided to eliminate the whole point of the debate with a mere stroke of the pen. Is there any difference between them and the ones who torched Nishat cinema, dare I ask?

Something died in me the moment I discovered that the federal information ministry has slapped a ban on the film, three weeks after certification authorities had shown it the green light. Not because I am a fan of Maalik or that the film is an example of exceptional film-making. In fact, it is far from that. What the ban translates into is the fact that the big screen is clearly of no importance to the government; the very government that wants a “Say no to corruption” ad to run before the screening of every major release in congregational spaces called cinemas.

‘Maalik’ banned across Pakistan

With the Maalik ban, we have perhaps hit the bottom of the barrel, ever since Pakistani cinema saw a rebirth with Khuda Kay Liye. Not just that, it will continue to be our most embarrassing moment long after the ban is sheepishly lifted simply because the state has given a clear message to the film-makers: no matter how hard you try, if an old man, sitting in a rundown government office does not appreciate the colour of your hero’s T-shirt, your film will go to the trash can.

Frankly speaking, things are much worse than what the ban on Maalik may signify. Pakistan does not even have censorship laws that are in harmony with modern standards. Two provinces are yet to take the idea of setting up their respective censorship boards seriously. Among the ones that exist, one board does not even enjoy the luxury of owning office space. Film certification, the world over, is switching to a rating system where instead of making excisions, you simply advise certain films for audiences of certain age brackets only. Waar was screened in Pakistani cinemas — a film full of bullets and blood — with a Universal rating. We have also been running Adult-rated films without even checking who walks into the theatre hall. Something is definitely rotten somewhere, with the stench surfacing every now and then in the shape of controversies such as the Maalik ban.

Ban on ‘Maalik’ is violating freedom of expression: Azeem

It is high time that the government started taking cinema seriously and sat down with film-makers to chalk out a clear course of action for the future. All state institutions need to know that there has to be a clear demarcation of the extent to which they can interfere in the creative industries. Replace the Motion Pictures Ordinance, 1979 and the Film Censorship Code 1980 with something more progressive and above all, easy to understand, so that the rights of film-makers can be safeguarded. If this does not happen, every time there is friction between two opposing forces in society, art will be the first and softest target.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Parvez
    May 3, 2016 - 11:52PM

    If you think banning Maalik is the low point in the present governments tenure…..you Sir are mistaken because their capacity for doing the absurd is limitless.Recommend

  • Cinephile
    May 4, 2016 - 12:18AM

    As always, spot on analysis Rafay. It seems as if this country is stuck in a perpetual groundhog day and the ruling regime is doing whatever it takes to keep it that way. Arts and cinema can never truly thrive until and unless the Zia era censorshiplaws (which were used in this case) are repealed.Recommend

  • Akaash
    May 4, 2016 - 10:23AM

    The govt is guilty… in the prevailing scenario the govt can never take risk to show the movies like Maalik.Recommend

  • Anjum Arshi
    May 4, 2016 - 12:38PM

    First, Maalik was not a good movie at all. Getting rid of it from the theaters is perhaps a service to the people. Secondly, it was clearly an attempt to undermine civilian rule. If Army is the answer to corruption than it means that we are happy with one form of corruption but not by the other. The worst thing about corruption by dictators is that they are not accountable to anyone, they don’t care about the country’s future, and often sell the country’s assets at a very small price, and that they can never be punished in any way. I would like the esteemed ET readers to consider this before condemning the ban.Recommend

  • SMM
    May 4, 2016 - 3:24PM

    Apart from Maalik, one can also expect films on Dacca Fall, Balochistan Operation, Execution of ZA Bhutto, Confinement/exile of Nawaz, Ojhhari Camp Blast, Kargil Drama, presence/execution Osama, takeover by Ayub,Zia&Mushi etc. Recommend

  • Cinephile
    May 4, 2016 - 3:29PM

    @SMM: The problem is practically ALL these issues have at least another side to the story, which would have to be explored in order for a fair depiction. However, there is no other version to the fact that a major chunk of the political class is debauched, as portrayed in Maalik accurately.Recommend

  • Jawed
    May 4, 2016 - 5:12PM

    Rafey Mehmood has written a good article on Maalik’s ban in the country.
    Disagree with Anjum Arshi comments
    Weather it’s a good film or bad film the question is the government shouldn’t have banned after giving clearance certificate by the censor board of Pakistan.Recommend

  • someone
    May 4, 2016 - 5:25PM

    When movies are banned for showing “establishment” in poor light, no one makes such a hue and cry however Politicians have been easy target everywhere.Recommend

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