Culture Ministry holds key to screening of Noor Jehan’s pre-partition film
By Jamal Khurshid
Karachi: The screening of Melody Queen Noor Jehan’s pre-partition film, Anmol Ghari, is contingent on the Culture Ministry taking a decision on a recommendation forwarded by the Central Board of Film Censors to lift the ban on import of Indian films made before the 1965 Pakistan-India war.
Film exhibitor M/S Mehboob Pictures had moved the Sindh High Court (SHC) for permission to open public screening of the film, challenging a ban imposed on its screening in Pakistan through SRO 461(1)/84 issued on June 4, 1984.
When the court took up the matter on Wednesday, the film exhibitor told the court that it was formed in 1944 as a subsidiary of M/S Mehboob Production (Pvt) Limited, Bombay, but it moved to Karachi before Partition. The petitioner submitted that Anmol Ghari was produced in 1946 before the partition of the Indian subcontinent, while at the time of Partition, the petitioner had an office in Karachi. After Partition, the print of the film was held at its Karachi office, and the film was not imported or produced in India.
Anmol Ghari, as per the petitioner, was duly censored – first by the Bombay Board of Film Censors in June 1946, then by the Punjab Film Censor Board in 1948, once more by the Karachi Board of Film Censors in 1949, and finally by the West Pakistan Film Censor Board in 1960 for unrestricted screening throughout West Pakistan.
The film exhibitor submitted that Anmol Ghari was the property of a Pakistani citizen, but the government in 1960 decertified it without any reason. However, the High Court stayed the impugned decertification and on May 15, 1963, the West Pakistan government issued a gazette restoring the certificate of Indian films which were uncertified and resume exhibition of the film. After the 1965 war, however, the government imposed a ban again on the exhibition of the movie. Till now, the petitioner argued, the has been a denial of the censor board to certify the film for exhibition.
The film exhibitor said that the film revolves around Madam Noor Jehan, and as such, no element in the movie is prejudiced against Pakistan interests or foreign relations. He sought a declaration that Anmol Ghari cannot be categorised as a film produced in India, and prayed the court to direct the respondent to issue a censor certificate and allow exhibition of the film.
Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Ashraf Mughal had filed a letter before the court, sent by Central Board of Film Censors under the subject “Request for lifting of ban on old Indian films imported prior to 1965 war.” He submitted that letter was sent to the Culture Ministry’s additional secretary in June 2010, but till today, no action seems to have been taken.
On a court query regarding the law currently in place to screen Indian films in Karachi, the DAG submitted that the films which get permission have been imported from countries other than India. Similarly, while the cast and the crew of these films is Indian, the major portion of these films has been shot outside India. The screening of other films, meanwhile, can only be allowed by the president of the country, the DAG submitted, adding that he could not provide particular provisions of the law under which the president has these powers.
After perusal of the contents of the CBFC letter, the court observed that the recommendations are in accordance with the policy of non-discrimination provided under Article 25 of the Constitution.
The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Athar Saeed directed the Culture Ministry to resolve the issue in any manner they wished to, but through a speaking order outlining the reasons for their decision. Documents to this effect should be submitted before the court by November 11.
The court observed that if the decision of the Culture Ministry is not communicated, the court will have no option but to allow this petition and direct the government to allow exhibition of the film.
Source: The News