Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif-starrer Phantom has run into trouble with regards to its release in Pakistan. According to reports, Jamat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief and alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed has filed a plea in a court in Lahore seeking a ban on its release, alleging that the film, which revolves around the 26/11 attacks, contains "filthy propaganda" against the country. Incidentally, the film's trailer features a clip of Saeed's real-life speech.
However, this isn't an isolated case. A number of Hindi films have been prohibited from releasing in Pakistan for diverse reasons over the past few years.
In January, Akshay Kumar's Baby was banned because reportedly it portrayed "a negative image of Muslims". Similarly, Riteish Deshmukh's new film, Bangistan, was banned. It was accused of propagating "anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim" sentiments.
Akshay Kumar starrer Baby was banned in Pakistan in January.
"Can the censor boards in these countries (also including Singapore) give us a written explanation clearly specifying what did they find offensive in our film (sic)," Ritesh Sidhwani, producer of Bangistan, had tweeted, when the ban was announced.
In 2012, another Saif-starrer, Agent Vinod, was banned from releasing in Pakistan, due to its storyline. "It is a shame that the movie is banned, with no offence to anyone, as the idea is to have open films between the two countries," Saif had said.
Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger (2012) had also met with the same fate. Even Vidya Balan's The Dirty Picture (TDP; 2011) was not allowed to release in Pakistan, because, apparently, the "subject matter and bold scenes" of the movie were considered unsuitable for the audience.
"You can ban a film today, but it's just one touch away from a download [online]. That defeats the entire purpose. But I suppose every society has its own dos and don'ts," says Milan Luthria, who directed TDP.
Pakistan had also banned the release of Tere Bin Laden (2010), and Raanjhanaa (2013) because of their alleged "controversial themes". Aamir Khan's production venture, Delhi Belly (2011), too, was not cleared due to its bold content. "It's common knowledge that there are several countries that are very protective about what they show. So, it's an ongoing battle. Hopefully, progress will prevail at some point," adds Milan.
Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
However, Salman's Bajrangi Bhaijaan was an exception. Reportedly, Salman Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijaan was one of the first Indian films revolving around the Indo-Pak theme to be allowed to release in Pakistan around Eid this year. Director Kabir Khan's film was approved by the Pakistani censor board with several cuts. It made 6 million Pakistani rupees in its first week in Karachi and Islamabad.
So, does a ban really affect a film's business? "Shah Rukh (Khan), Salman and Aamir's films are big, and any ban will be a blow [to their business]. [But for other films] anything that adds to their business is welcome, but even if it doesn't, it's okay, because it (Pakistan) is not a huge market. It is a growing market though," says film trade analyst Komal Nahta.
Films that were banned in Pakistan
Ek Tha Tiger: The Salman Khan- and Katrina Kaif-starrer was allegedly banned in Pakistan for its depiction of the country's security agencies. As per a report, it had "several themes referring to Pakistan's agencies".
Baby: Reportedly, the censor board in Pakistan felt that it portrayed "a negative image of Muslims and the negative characters in the film also have Muslim names".
Bangistan: The Riteish Deshmukh- and Pulkit Samrat-starrer was reportedly banned after only watching the trailer, and it was deemed that the "film is anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim".
Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture.
The Dirty Picture: The Vidya Balan-starrer was stopped from being screened in Pakistan as it was deemed unsuitable for theatrical exhibition because of its "subject matter and bold scenes".
Phantom: Jamat-ud-Dawah chief and alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed has filed a petition in Lahore high court, seeking a ban, alleging that it contains "filthy propaganda" against Pakistan.
Raanjhanaa: The film was banned because of its alleged "controversial theme". It reportedly portrayed "an inapt image of a Muslim girl falling in love with a Hindu man and having an affair with him".