Zindagi Tamasha row continues
When the teaser(s) of Sarmad Khoosat’s Zindagi Tamasha first released, it gave fans of cinema something to look forward to. It piqued our collective interest. It defied any set genre because Sarmad Khoosat cannot be pigeonholed into one. He is also a non-linear storyteller and we need more of those.
The rendition of ‘Sik Mitraan’ by Saakin added to that intrigue, particularly since Sarmad Khoosat had roped in a two-song(s) old band to produce the film’s soundtrack.
Meanwhile, with no Bollywood film releasing and an abysmal 2019 – barring fantastic films like Laal Kabootar and Superstar – and no releases from hit-makers Nadeem Baig-Humayun Saeed (director-producer) and Nabeel Qureshi-Fizza Ali Meerza (director-producer), all eyes and some hope were set on Zindagi Tamasha.
Scheduled to release as the first film of the year 2020, on January 24, it’s a film that is made for Pakistan, by Pakistanis and features four protagonists out of whom three are making their film debut. Nirmal Bano, the writer is a fresh graduate of NCA (National College of Arts).
But, forget the release of the film, events promoting the film had to be cancelled as threats grew against the film and its team, led by the intelligent filmmaker of our times, Sarmad Khoosat. Even as producer Kanwal Khoosat reiterated that tolerance is the message of the film, the release fell in trouble.
Set inside the heart of Lahore beyond typical tropes, Zindagi Tamasha features as its protagonist a devotional man, a well-respected naat khwan named Rahat Khawaja (played by Arif Hassan); he is married to Samiya Mumtaz with Eman Suleman essaying their daughter and model-turned-actor Ali Kureshi the son-in-law.
It sounds like any other narrative. Except it is Sarmad Khoosat touching upon subjects and subthemes that we can’t talk about. After getting clearance from Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) originally – as the film got closer to release – it was stopped by the federal government.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) was tapped by the government to judge the film, a task that does not fall under their purview. At first, they repeated the same before it all fell apart. It was then stated that certain members from CII would indeed judge the film. In between all this, Sarmad Khoosat penned a note to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the President of the Country as well as the Minister of Information and Culture and the Chief of Army Staff. But his requests were not respected.
Upon ban requests made by Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the film still hasn’t released. The CII will be joined by TLP representative(s) to judge the film and decide whether it falls under the tenets of Islam. The review date was set for February 3, 2020 but it has yet to take place.
According to a report in Naya Daur, Khadim Hussain Rizvi of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan has said he would rather die than see the film release. It’s an extremist reaction from an extremist. Has the government given in? Do we only get to see a certain genre that doesn’t ruffle any feathers?
The question to ask is this: why hasn’t the review (with CII, CBFC and TLP members) still being showcased as a mystery with no date or end in sight. A blame game is also being played out where one board is said to be waiting for another to review first. CBFC noted it did send a letter to CII. They maintain otherwise. TLP has gone to the extent of calling the content in the film potentially “blasphemous”.
Where did the authority of CBFC go in all this and why is the government so extremely ambivalent to matters pertaining to culture?
Meray Paas Tum Ho, a television serial, has given cinema some business due to its path-breaking popularity. But during all this, where does the cinema industry stand?
Beyond tweets to the PM, where are the big producers, directors and actors vouching for release and putting some pressure?
A review of Zindagi Tamasha by the CBFC ft. members of the Ministry of Information and Culture, CII and TLP has yet to take place.
Out of fear of potential dharnas by TLP, which were postponed with the film’s lack of release, it looks like a game of cat and mouse is being played with the government unwilling to take a stand.
A date for review is still not clear.
Director, writer and actor Sarmad Khoosat is a veteran of the industry with Zindagi Tamasha being his second full length feature film – after Manto (2015).