Jab Tak Hai Jaan’s release hangs in the balance for Pakistan
By: Rafay Mahmood
KARACHI: As the king of Bollywood romance, Yash Chopra departed from the world earlier this week; his legacy came to an end with his last and final project, Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif starrer Jab Tak Hai Jaan, which is all set for a November 13 release worldwide.
But while the film-makers are hoping that the Yash Chopra magic of theatrical romance will rake in the numbers, there are whispers that the film may not make it to Pakistani screens. Sources have said that trailers for the movie have been banned from being screened, but the Ministry of National Regulation and Services has denied reviewing any content related to the film.
“We have received no application [to review the content],” said Iftikhar Durrani, adviser to the Ministry of National Regulation and Services, emphasising that an application for review has not been registered. As he elaborated on the process of importing films in Pakistan, he explained that the importer has to register an application with the ministry, which is then forwarded to the Ministry of Commerce; the commerce ministry then returns it to the Ministry of Regulation, under which the federal censor board functions. He explicitly denied any reports suggesting that the trailer has been banned, saying: “There is a Standard Operating Procedure for trailers to be banned and most distributors never risk their capital on it.”
On the other hand, a source revealed to The Express Tribune that the censor board had refused to review the trailer of the film. “When Amjad Rasheed, owner of IMGC Global Entertainment — the company that was supposed to distribute the film in Pakistan — approached the censor board to get the trailer approved, the board refused to accept it and insisted that censorship will only take place once the entire film arrives in Pakistan,” he said, requesting anonymity.
From a distributor’s point of view, for any foreign film to come to Pakistan, a number of steps need to be taken; first, the distributor acquires the rights of distribution from the film’s producer and then submits the trailer of the film to the censor board for approval, while simultaneously advertising for the film’s screening in Pakistan. However, if the censor board refuses to “allow” the trailer for screening — which sources confirm has happened in the case of Jab Tak Hai Jaan — no further proceedings can be made regarding the release of the film. This has led many to believe that the film may ultimately be banned.
IMGC Global Entertainment’s PR consultant also told The Express Tribune that no such development has taken place: “It has not been presented to the Central Board of Film Certification [CBFC] for review yet — the censor board is the official authority. Unless the board denies certification for a film, no one can say a film will not be exhibited here.”
In retrospect, films which have tackled sensitive issues have been banned in Pakistan and as a result, veteran members of the film industry feel Jab Tak Hai Jaan will also eventually be officially banned. “If the trailer of a film has been banned, how can one even think that the whole film will be released in the country?” said a senior member of the film industry, requesting anonymosity.
He further explained that films which revolve around sensitive issues such as our armed forces or even the Kashmir issue normally don’t make it through the censor board’s screening process, as they are delicate issues on both sides of the border. Citing the example of late Riaz Shahid’s film Yeh Aman that was shot after the 1965 war and based on the Kashmir dispute, Ahmed said, “It was supposed to be released as Aman but because it was based on a very sensitive issue, it was re-edited and released again as Yeh Aman with the controversial content entirely removed.”
He added that even a film such as Veer-Zara, Chopra’s second last film, was banned because it revolved around an Indian pilot who falls in love with a Pakistani girl. But he feels that the bans are somewhat necessary as the storyline of such films are deliberately absurd. “I’m sure the ISI has better things to do than chase down a Pakistani girl and an Indian boy, as was shown in Ek Tha Tiger,” he said, referring to the negative portrayal of Pakistani security personnel in Indian movies.
With the film just a few weeks away from a global release, the fact that theatrical trailers are not being shown in cinemas here and posters aren’t being published in our newspapers are tell-tale signs.
The fate of Jab Tak Hai Jaan in Pakistan remains uncertain. However, experts feel that Chopra’s fans in Pakistan will not be able to witness the last of his works on the big screen.