Banned films of 2015

2015 has been a remarkable year for film business in Pakistan. Hollywood, Bollywood as well as local Pakistani films have earned quite well this year. While there were films which made headlines due to their subjects and business, there were plenty of films which were the lead stories when they were banned for one reason or the other.

This article is a compilation of all such films of 2015 comprising of Bollywood and local Pakistani films. Interestingly most of the Bollywood films banned in Pakistan also failed to earn big in India. Also the reason for ban on all the Indian Bollywood films was same i.e. their anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam content, still it has not impacted the business of other Bollywood films allowed screening in Pakistan.

Bollywood’s Baby was due to release on 23rd January 2015. The film has veteran Pakistani artist Rasheed Naaz as well as Mikaal Zulfiqar in the supporting roles. The film made headlines when it was denied the censor certificate by the Sindh Board for Films Certificate (SBFC). SBFC refused the censor certificate due to its allegedly anti-Pakistan subject and theme. After the refusal of SBFC, the film was not presented before the other two censor boards of Pakistan i.e. Central Borad for Films Certificate (CBFC) and Punjab Board for Films Certificate (PBFC).On social media Rasheed Naaz and Mikaal Zulfiqar both were criticized as well for working in this film.


Honour Killing
A British-Indian film Honour Killing was due to relase on 27th February 2015. Pakisani artists Zara Sheikh and Javed Sheikh played important roles in this film. Honour Killing was issued the censor certificate by SBFC, however it made headlines when presented before the CBFC. The CBFC refused to issue the censor certificate calling it an anti Pakistan film as well as revoked the censor certificate of SBFC.

Welcome to Karachi
A Bollywood film released in May 2015. The film created uproar when its trailer was released in April 2015. It also has Pakistani artists Ayub Khoso and Adnan Shah Tipu in the negative roles. The trailer of the film resulted in its negative image in Pakistan and eventually no Pakistani distributor bought this film for release in Pakistan.

Due to release on 7th August 2015, the CBFC issued a negative statement against the film after seeing its trailer on social media. Due to the statement made by CBFC, the distributors of the film cancelled their plans by not presenting it before the censor board.

Based on the Mumbai attacks, Phantom was not intended to release in Pakistan. However it gained fame when Hafiz Saeed the leader of Jammatul Dawwa filed a pre-emtive petition in the Lahore High Court to halt its expected release. The petition of Hafiz Saeed (who is accused of Mumbai attacks by India) made headlines in Indian as well as Pakistani media and dragged many politicians in the debate too. Phantom was not presented before any censor board in Pakistan, but was banned by Lahore High Court on the petition of Hafiz Saeed.

Phantom was not the first film of Indian director Kabir Khan banned in Pakistan. Before Phantom, Kabir Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger in 2013 was also banned. Interestingly Bajrangi Bhaijan also directed by Kabir Khan is so far the highest earning Bollywood film of 2015 in Pakistan.

Abdullah The Final Witness
A local Urdu film produced in Quetta, Balochistan, this film is based on the Kharotabad event of 2011, in which five russian and tajik citizen were killed by a security agency. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival 2015. But when presented in CBFC in June 2015 to release in Pakistan, it was returned with many objections. The film is still stuck in CBFC despite few cuts made by the producer Hashim Nadeem. The CBFC has objection on the portrayal of a security agency in this film.

Swaarangi was due to release on 29th August 2015, but it became a victim of the inconsistent censor policy of different censor boards of Pakistan. Swaarangi got censor certificates from SBFC and PBFC without any cuts, but stuck in CBFC. The CBFC termed Swaarangi as an effort to undermine Pakistan. Swaarangi was based on drug addiction and its consequences. In the end Swaarangi was released only in Sindh and Punjab on 11th September 2015.

Bajirao Mastani
Bollywood’s Bajirao Mastani is also another film which became a victim of the inconsisten censor policy of different censor boards. It was cleared by PBFC and SBFC without any major cut but was stuck in the CBFC. Eventually CBFC also issued the censor certificate after reviewing it multiple times. So Bajirao Mastani is released in the whole Pakistan on 18th December 2015. Though tt is not banned in Pakistan, but the late decision of the CBFC resulted in the rumors of its banning.

2015 is the year where perhaps the number of films banned or stuck temporarily in the censor boards is the highest. Though the three censor boards currently operating in Pakistan follow the same censor code, but their inconsistent decision making with respect to films like Honour Killing, Swaarangi and Bajirao Mastani raised many questions about the qualification of the members of various censor boards. A comparative study carried out by an English daily revealed that while the majority of the members of PBFC and SBFC are mostly former artists the majority of the members of CBFC consists of retired bureaucrats and army officers. The inconsistent decision making of these censor boards might attribute to their members, who belong to different walks of life and thus their approach towards issuing a censor certificate to a film varies to a huge extent.

Rashid Nazir Ali

Rashid Nazir Ali