KARACHI: The past few weeks have been quite busy for Fakhr-e-Alam who until yesterday, was heading the Sindh Board of Film Censors (SBFC). Following the assassination of Amjad Sabri, the singer and TV host initiated a campaign, along with fellow artists, demanding the government to ensure the security of showbiz personalities. However, it now seems he is also not on the best of terms with Pakistan Peoples Party’s Sindh government, as he quit his job on Monday.
Following the acceptance of his resignation, SBFC officials have spoken out, regretting the turn of events. Talking to The Express Tribune, SBFC Secretary Abdul Razzaq Khuhawar praised his former boss for running a tight ship. “Whatever happened does not take away from the fact that he did an excellent job as chairman,” he said. Concurring with Khuhawar, board member Umer Khitab termed the resignation a tremendous loss for Pakistani cinema. “He was one of the few people who were genuinely concerned about the film industry,” he noted. “For instance, his first act after assuming office was removing the censorship fee that is still charged by the Punjab and central boards.”
According to Khitab, Alam tried his best to bring the board at par with international standards. “One of his major achievements was revising the 60-year-old censor code but unfortunately it could not be implemented as it is yet to be approved,” he said. The board member said the new head is also going to be someone not associated with the government.
Bring him back
Amjad Rasheed heads IMGC Entertainment, Pakistan’s biggest film distribution company. “Alam was the most liberal and cooperative chairman we have worked with,” he said, adding, “The government should try and bring him back.” Rasheed said earlier corruption was rampant in the board and they had to spend a lot of money for getting films okayed. “He changed all of that,” he added. “Many a times, different parties would force us to excise different scenes from movies. Alam took it upon himself and never brought us in a tight corner.”
The film distributor said there have been instances where the federal government issued NOCs for films at 12 in the night. “He would call a review meeting there and then and ensure that the film was certified for the next day’s release,” Rasheed added. He said previous SBFC bosses were either too artsy or too bureaucratic. “This man knew film and he was not a bad administrator at all.”
Karachi Se Lahore director Wajahat Rauf had a similar story to tell. “He was a very forward thinking chairman and I can tell you from my interactions [during Karachi Se Lahore’s certification] that he used to request his panel to reduce the number of cuts,” he said. “He managed to convince them that removing certain scenes would kill the jokes.”
No money involved
Having succeeded Zulfiqar Ramzi as the board’s second head, he assumed office in voluntary capacity and did not seek any monetary benefits from the government. In a lengthy message posted on his Twitter account, Alam said that he was entitled to a salary, official vehicle and different allowances which he did not take.
Even though he made no reference to his ‘Equal Safety or Equal Vulnerability’ campaign in the note, the link is quite evident.
Alam’s tenure coincided with a revival of Pakistani cinema. While his term is being praised for being a rather progressive one, it was not short of controversies. Recently, the SBFC had banned, unbanned and re-banned Ashir Azeem’s Maalik. The Alam-led board panel had also, surprisingly, issued a U (Universal) rating for The Revenant; something that even the Motion Picture Association of America did not do.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2016.