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Shoaib Mansoor’s film hits censor snags

November 15, 2017
A POSTER for the Mahira-starrer Verna which was scheduled for release this week.
A POSTER for the Mahira-starrer Verna which was scheduled for release this week.

KARACHI: Who would have thought that even a filmmaker who enjoys respect across creative, political and social divides in the country would one day be thinking of ways to try and convince the censor authorities not to ban his film from running in cinemas? Writer/director Shoaib Mansoor must be in a spot of bother on Tuesday when he got to know that the Censor Board did not issue the certificate required for the release of a film because of which the Lahore premiere of his film Verna was cancelled. It caused quite a bit of commotion in the showbiz fraternity as well as among cine-goers who were eagerly looking forward to watching the film.

In a trice, the news went viral on social media. The buzz was that the film, which was/is slated to release on Nov 17, was banned by the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) in Islamabad. The rumoured reason for the ban was the content of the story: the female protagonist (played by Mahira Khan) gets raped by the son of an influential person. The character of a governor of a province has also been painted in an unfavourable light. Earlier, it had been reported that a full board would review it after which it would be decided whether the movie was fit for release or not. It reviewed and banned the film. All three censor boards — Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore — function independently.

Talking to Dawn, Shoaib Mansoor replied to the question about the veracity of the news: “The news so far is correct. Tonight [Tuesday] the full board will again review the film. By tomorrow I will be in a position [to analyse the situation] because tomorrow they will tell us about their objections.” By Tuesday evening they had not given away the objections that they had to Verna’s content.

The film was being promoted for the last few weeks by its cast. Its principal actors Mahira Khan and Haroon Shahid had been giving interviews to the media and attending events related to the film, including its trailer launch in Karachi which was a pretty vibrant affair. Here it would be interesting to note that a Bollywood film Raees starring Mahira Khan had also faced censor problems.

Ather Waqar Azeem of Hum TV, which was going to release the film, said Islamabad had raised objections to showing the governor’s son behaving immorally. “Social issues need to be highlighted. TV is a medium that families watch, but one has the choice of going [or not] to cinema to watch a film. Let people see what they want to see,” he said.

Actor Javed Sheikh sounded optimistic about the issue. “Unless Islamabad clears it, it can’t be shown in the entire country. My feeling is that it’s going to be passed because Shoaib Mansoor’s previous film Khuda Kay Liye touched upon a bigger issue than this one, and that movie too had gone to the full board. I think it’s going to get the green signal.”

General Secretary of the Sindh Board of Film Censors Abdul Razzaq said, “We saw it yesterday. Our decision is pending because if we had issued the certificate, Islamabad might not have liked it. I think if certain scenes that focus on the governor’s son are deleted from the film, then it can be given the go-ahead. This is our job to cut out the stuff that’s objectionable.”

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017