It was only earlier this week that Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors refused to certify, and even view Pad Man. It claimed that the movie was “against our traditions and culture,” not allowing their distributors to import the film.
And there doesn’t seem to be any respite for Bollywood movies yet, with Aiyaary now being banned by the neighbouring country too. It is learnt that the reason for the no objection certificate (NOC) being denied to the film by Pakistan is because it shows the corruption in the country’s army, and also has a negative portrayal of the nation. A source puts it succinctly, “Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, has refused to issue an NOC.”
Aiyaary joins a long list of Neeraj Pandey movies to be banned by Pakistan. While his film Special 26 was released in Pakistan, movies like A Wednesday, Baby, Naam Shabana and even M.S Dhoni were banned in the country.
An unsurprised Neeraj reveals that he wasn’t even going to apply for a release in Pakistan, owing to his track record. “This time, I had told my team to not even try for a release in Pakistan. But then, we had the luxury of time, due to the frequent postponement of the film,” he says. “We had strong queries (demand for the film) from Pakistan, but I knew that it would not get released here.”
Deepika Padukone in a still from the movie Padmaavat
Neeraj pragmatically mentions that it’s the patriotic theme of the movie that could be an issue. “I don’t think I’m a problem,” he says. “It has to be this film. The theme is very patriotic, and doesn’t cut well there. Even Dhoni wasn’t allowed to be shown there.”
Interestingly, even the Indian army had demanded that Aiyaary be screened to them, before issuing an NOC to it. The film passed, despite there being some issues that had cropped up earlier.
And while Padmaavat was okayed by the Pakistan censor board this year, the censor board later received flak for letting the movie through, uncut. In 2017, Pakistan banned six Hindi films, including Tiger Zinda Hai, Tubelight and Raees.
R. Balki, the director of Pad Man, had been a tad upset with the banning too. He had earlier said, “I think they have their own reasons. But you cannot ban a film like this. You’re doing something unfair to humanity. It’s a story of this man’s life and the issue it’s addressing. The Middle East has welcomed the film, and it’s the first film to be screened in Iraq. You’d think the country is so conservative, but it’s doing well there. I’m sure there will be a lot of pressure to see the film. It’s a simple film for humanity, and that’s all.”
— With inputs from Sanskriti Media and Uma Ramasubramanian