Bullett Raja shot down by the CBFC

Published: November 28, 2013
Saif Ali Khan’s latest offering hangs in the balance. PHOTO: FILE

Saif Ali Khan’s latest offering hangs in the balance. PHOTO: FILE


In an unprecedented move by Lahore High Court, Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan issued a contempt notice yesterday to the Chairman of the Central Board Film Censorship (CBFC) and senior bureaucrat Syed Arshad Ali for failing to stop the exhibition of illegal foreign films in Pakistan.

The struggle to prohibit the exhibition of Indian films has been deeply connected to efforts to revive the fledging local cinema industry by veteran Lollywood and Punjabi filmmakers. They claim that Indian films hinder the progress of local filmmakers, and their economic gain on Pakistani soil is against the law.

As a result of the notice, the CBFC has refused to censor upcoming Bollywood film Bullett Raja. The film, which stars Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, had originally been slated for a November 29 release in Pakistan. Advertisements in various newspapers have already advertised its grand opening for today, November 29, 2013.

“It is an unprecedented decision by the courts. It’s the first time local courts have taken a serious look at our argument,” says lawyer Amir Ali Shah, the legal consul for the petitioner. He maintains that, despite the ban on such activity, Indian films are being imported illegally and are being unlawfully shown on Pakistani soil.

“I don’t know what has caused the CBFC to refuse to censor Bullett Raja. All I know for certain is that if I release this film in Pakistan, there could be possible legal repercussions,” says Amjad Rasheed, the CEO of IMGC Entertainment, which is the company that has bought the rights to distribute Bullett Raja in Pakistan.

He further added that the petition is against the import of illegal foreign films, whereas Bullett Raja’s certification is being stopped regardless of the fact that the documents and paperwork regarding its import have been approved.

“I have no other option but to stop the release of Bullett Raja, as nothing is more important than the law of the state and I must abide by it,” says Rasheed resignedly.

Ali, the board’s chairman, issued a statement to the press yesterday saying that the censoring of all films had been stopped, and the board would let the courts decide the matter. He maintained that the board had, so far, not censored any smuggled or illegal content; in fact all of the films (including Bullett Raja) that had been stopped had already been approved by the Ministry of Commerce.

The court order is only applicable to films with illegal documentation. The import of a film is only approved by the Ministry of Commerce once all its paperwork has been verified. Given that Bullett Raja has already been approved by the Ministry, the CBFC has no reason to delay the certification of the film.

The contempt of court order that has been issued by the Lahore High Court only mentions the CBFC, a body which does not retain any power as the central committee for film censorship since the 18th amendment. These days, film censorship is supposed to take place on a provincial basis. Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  and Balochistan only rely on the CBFC for film certification as they are yet to formulate their own censor boards. In effect, the Sindh Film Certification Board is the only functional provincial censor board that certifies films. This is why there is a fair chance that, if the distributor intends it, the film can be released in Sindh despite the Lahore High Court order.

“Post 18th amendment, the Sindh Film Certification Board became an independent body that has nothing to do with the CBFC, but follows every other law of the land,” says a representative of the Sindh Censor Board, who requested anonymity. Maintaining that the order of the Lahore High Court is not applicable on this body, the representative adds, “We have our own set of laws, and if a film like Bullet Raja has all of its paper work, and is coming through a legal process then it will definitely be entertained by the SBFC,” the representative said.

“If the film comes to us by Friday morning then it will definitely be entertained and certified (according to the censorship law) to be released in Sindh on Friday, as expected.”

Since it appears that film can only be released in Sindh so far, there is a possibility that it may not be released at all. The last instance when the functions of the censor were effectively halted; huge losses were incurred by the country’s largest exhibitors. The distributors and exhibitors are working on a response to the petition but nothing has been decided as yet.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Kiran
    Nov 28, 2013 - 8:29PM

    Funny, biggest losers will be Pakistani artists. Wait and see for the reaction, next soon to release Ali Zafar movie will be stopped in India. All Pakistani singers can close their shops in Mumbai after these types of Incidents from Paki land. No one dare to support them as earlier they got from Bollywood producers/actors/singers.


  • Raj
    Nov 28, 2013 - 8:52PM

    Here you go Pakistanis. This is how u gets back…



  • Alann
    Nov 28, 2013 - 8:56PM

    This article is too confusing. Title suggests the CBFC of Pakistan blocked the release of this film, whereas in the actual article it says the CBFC refused to censor the film?!
    1) How come it is an “exhibition of illegal foreign films in Pakistan” if a distributor company (IMGC Entertainment) has bought the rights from makers of this film to show it in Pakistan?
    2) Also the claims of the “veteran” cough Pakistani filmmakers is hilarious aswell, in two ways:
    a. How do “Indian films hinder the progress of local filmmakers”? – It is the local filmmakers of Pakistan that fail to come up with quality movies for the masses which results in Indian movies getting imported into Pakistani market.
    b. How are the economic gains of Indian films on Pakistani soil “against the law”? The Indian filmmakers may be getting some money in the form of royalties, but the biggest gainers are actually Pakistani firms themselves who distribute these films all over Pakistan.

    Instead of making such ridiculous claims, Pakistani filmmakers should instead really try to bring quality films for the Pakistani public. Not only do they have very low budgets for their films, even the most editing & finishing work is outsourced to India. Pakistan does not even have infrastructure for the same — that should be their main area of focus. They are not really hurting Bollywood or the Indian film industry by trying to get Indian films banned; They are hurting Pakistan’s own economy indirectly.


  • Asif
    Nov 28, 2013 - 9:06PM

    Indian films on the contrary have help revitalize Pakistani film industry. Pakistani film industry faced with competition from their Indian counterpart have come up with brilliant movies in recent year.

    Banning the Indian movies will result in what we are witnessing in our auto industry, high prices & low quality.


  • Naren
    Nov 28, 2013 - 9:19PM

    Please do not allow theses Bollywood movies to release in Pakistan. They should be shown the doors. Please run your own movies and enjoy it. Its a very gutsy decision, but if succeeds nothing like it. God bless you.


  • jhanzeb
    Nov 28, 2013 - 9:42PM

    Brilliant news, all indians including this guy saif ali khan hates pakistan, Open your eyes, and do not show this indian crap here in pakistan


  • Spock
    Nov 28, 2013 - 10:49PM

    What got in to courts pants. The movie is being imported with due permission of govt and after paying the customs how can you call it illegal?

    If the prints were sneaked in the country under cover and the theater owners showed it without paying taxes or without knowledge of govt then may be you can call it illegal.

    Cant ban the taliban videos but ban the imported movies. Great job


  • Ajay
    Nov 29, 2013 - 12:01AM

    WAAR has not been telecast in India. That seems to be the reason. How can you expect to screen a movie with such lies as shown in that movie.!


  • saad
    Nov 29, 2013 - 12:02AM

    Bullet raja should be banned. Indian movie make money and those movie makers give half of that money to indian Governemnet which uses that money to incite volence in pakistan and used it to bomb our cities by buying terrorists so they can killed our people. Every indian movie should be banned.


  • GrimmJow
    Nov 29, 2013 - 12:44AM

    What can you expect of a regressive society like Pakistan. They have banned even YouTube.. LOL!Recommend

  • Striver
    Nov 29, 2013 - 2:16AM

    Pakistan has made a huge contribution to the growth of Bollywood. Its an undeniable fact, like it or not.


  • np
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:13AM

    @Ajay: Censor did not stop Waar i India. The producer himself said that he had not yet reched any agreement with any distributors. Given the English language for Waar and absence of any patriotic feelings associated with Waar, Indian distributors probably may not have offered him the prioce he was seeking. But then he has had no success releasing it elsewhere – with reasonably big Pakistani populations e.g. UAE, USA, Australia, NZ. Even for UK, the producer of Waar had said that censor had cleared but no agreements with distributors were in place. So it is not like the movie is running in other foreign countries and India alone blocked it.


  • gp65
    Nov 29, 2013 - 9:18AM

    @Striver: “Pakistan has made a huge contribution to the growth of Bollywood. Its an undeniable fact, like it or not.”

    Please provide back up for this ‘fact’? For A list movies, 20-25% of revenues come from pverseas. Pakistani revenue is typically around 5-10% of overseas revenue or around 1-2% of revenue.

    If you talk about Pakistani talent – Ali Zafar has just had one hit as the lead hero – Chashm-e-Baddoor. Veena Malik – zero. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is indeed a talented singer but surely even he will not say that he contributed to the growth of Bollywwod. I am wondering where you are coming from…


  • Soham
    Nov 29, 2013 - 10:36AM

    @gp65: Ali Zafar has just had one hit as the lead hero – Chashm-e-Baddoor

    Wrong. Ali Zafar was just one of the actors in the film. There were other actors like Divyendu Sharma & Siddharth who actually made the film funny to watch.


  • SonuIM
    Dec 2, 2013 - 11:05PM

    Now, who will go to empty Pakistani Cinemas..??


  • umar khan
    Dec 4, 2013 - 1:23PM

    ohhhh…. SHAME on you Some Indians you ppl abusing Pakistan nd in the result u want to Release this movie after what are u saying abt Pak No one want to release this movie in Pakistan including me. Before reading your comments i thought that it is not good if Hollywood movies releasing in Pak then Bollywood movies also have right to release bt after reading your above comments it should be remained banned. so much hatred shown already so i dnt wanna talk abt Ind or Pak or contribution that made by Pakis or Indians in many fields for each other. Live long to BOTH Countries


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