By Sonya Rehman
Released this month, the Bollywood movie, ‘Tere Bin Laden’ (Without You, Laden), has been banned in Pakistan because it caricatures Osama Bin Laden.
Starring Ali Zafar, a pop star from Pakistan, the movie depicts Zafar as a struggling Pakistani journalist who fabricates an interview with a man who shares an uncanny resemblance to Bin Laden.
In the movie, Zafar’s character believes that the interview will land him direct entry into the land of the free – the United States of America.
While the movie has been a box office hit across the border, and has been playing at cinemas overseas, the Pakistani censor board has clamped down on its release – in fear of inciting a spate of suicide attacks in retaliation towards the theme of the movie.
Ammara Hikmat, Zafar’s publicist said that the decision to lift the ban has been postponed by the censor board.
“We haven’t heard from the board yet”, Hikmat said, “I hope the appellate board rules in the film’s favor, it has done tremendously well at the box office in the Gulf States and no one found it offensive.”
While the ban is understandable, given the escalation of suicide attacks in Pakistan as of late; at places of worship and crowded commercial areas, Shahid Mirza, a Pakistani artist believes that banning the movie isn’t going to solve anything.
“How about the millions of porn sites which we don’t approve of,” he stated, “Either we develop a universal censor code – or simply exercise choice: you don’t like it, you don’t watch it.”
Ayesha Eirabie, a professional based in Karachi is of the notion that people “will eventually end up watching a pirated DVD of the movie anyway.”
“Are we protecting the rights of terrorists by saving them from defamation? Real funny!” Eirabie stated.
“What ban are they talking about,” said Maryam Usman, a writer from Islamabad. “It’s available in the CD shops in my locality! Clearly, absurd bans have loopholes and free media, a voice.”
Nausheen Ishtiaq Jivani, a marketer from Karachi stated; “I’m generally against any ban on free media and communication. However, this particular ban just doesn’t make any logical sense at all. The intent seems to be to prevent access to a humorous/satirical movie – which doesn’t even offend a particular community or group. Plus, banning anything is a surefire way to draw attention to it!”
On the other hand, Sara Sabir, a young professional from Lahore supports the ban. “The Taliban are going around bombing places without any reason already – why give them another reason?”
“I’m sure it’s a good movie,” Sabir stated, “But do you think the Taliban have a sense of humor and will take ‘Tere Bin Laden’ as a simple comedy? True, there are porn sites and vulgar movies out there, but what’s a more direct provocation for the Taliban; vulgar movies or a movie poking fun at their leader?”
“I’m neither for nor against the ban but I did feel something like this would end up happening,” Saman Dogar, a teacher from Lahore said. “Every publication and website has introduced the movie by saying that it’s about a ‘Pakistani journalist’ who’s ‘desperate’ to make it to America. The Indians have never used our artists for a good cause. Why did the director choose a Pakistani in the first place? Didn’t he realize how sensitive things are in the world today – especially considering Pakistan and the Taliban?”
Samina Rizwan, a Pakistani based in Dubai shares a similar notion. “In principle, banning is wrong,” she stated, “However, the Pakistani context today is extraordinarily sensitive and for that reason I think the ban is in the greater interest of the community at this time. Those that aim to harm us do not think rationally (or maybe they do, their rationale is to find excuses for destruction). So, there will be any number of people in Pakistan who will think that creating a caricature of Bin Laden amounts to ‘disrespecting their hero’ and who knows what consequence a poor Cineplex with hundreds of movie watchers will have to suffer. Terrorists don’t have a sense of humor and they are severely challenged in the tolerance department as well.”
A thespian from Islamabad, Uzair Khan, stated; “I don’t support the ban. Originally it was going to be renamed and released, for security reasons. If that was the case, then that would have been acceptable. But banning the entire project is not a good idea. We should be supporting our national artists, not making life harder for them.”
On Thursday, the 22nd of July, Ali Zafar presided over a press conference in Karachi urging the Pakistani government to lift the ban.
While Pakistanis make do by watching the movie on pirated DVD’s, the official release of ‘Tere Bin Laden’ in Pakistan hangs in limbo for now.
The Huffington Post