KARACHI: Arguably, the most eagerly awaited Pakistani film which was released on Eidul Fitr this year — April 21 to be precise — was Money Back Guarantee. It’s written and directed by Faisal Qureshi who is known for his comedic talent. Why eagerly awaited? Answer: because apart from having some of the most celebrated film and TV stars, the makers had managed to rope in cricketer Wasim Akram and his wife Shaneira to play a couple of roles in the movie.

As far as the film’s storyline was concerned, addressing a press conference in Karachi on April 11, actor Fawad Khan had claimed that it was a political satire. After its release, the movie did not do badly at the box office. Among the Pakistani films that saw the light of day on Eidul Fitr, it did comparatively better in terms of raking in money. Critics neither went gaga over it nor took it to the cleaners. MBG received an okay response.

But as the content of the film started getting talked about on the internet, and it took two months for it by the way, some other aspects of Money Back Guarantee came pouring fourth — a few of which did not go down well with civil society groups.

On June 27, the country’s human rights activists in a statement strongly condemned the project. They say members of the Christian community have pointed out ‘stereotypical’ and ‘insulting’ portrayal of Christians in the film, both in the dialogue uttered by some characters and through the depiction of certain ‘props’.

Rights activists condemn ‘anti-Christian bias, prejudice, insults and disrespect’ in the film

According to them, it has been shown in MBG that only Christians can be employed as sanitation workers and have even used the banned word that begins with the letter C. The groups also criticised the ‘parody of the famous religious painting The Last Supper’.

In a statement Sheema Kermani, Tahira Abdullah, Dr Yasmeen Kazi, Atif Hayat, Safina Javed, Anwer Jafri, Salma Khalil, Anwaar uddin and Mehmood Bhatti “strongly condemn the anti-Christian bias, prejudice, insults and disrespect so blatantly displayed, both in some of the dialogues as well as the depiction of some props”.

“One does not have to belong to a particular faith [or gender or race or ethnicity] to be able to recognise religious prejudice and disrespect when one sees it,” it said, asking the Film Censor Board to take stern notice and action.

When contacted by Dawn on Saturday, the director of Money Back Guarantee Faisal Qureshi insisted that one should see the film first before commenting on it.

He was of the view that the objections raised were not right but in order to go into the details of his claim, the film must be watched. He suspected that those who are raising the objections haven’t seen it either.

Anwer Jafri, who works with the theatre group Tehrik-i-Niswan and is one of those who have expressed their disapproval, said: “I haven’t seen the film but I have seen clips of it circulating on social media. The way they have depicted [Christian community] is in bad taste, particularly what they have done with the painting The Last Supper. While some of the things about sanitation work can be discussed, what they have done to the artwork is unjustifiable.”

Film and television actor Mani, who plays the character of G A Muhajir in MBG, said, “Self critique doesn’t mean we want to say such and such thing, it means what people are saying. People use terms such as dagga, karanta for each other. [In the film] it’s a fictionalised country (farzi sa mulk hai) in which all these communities live. We haven’t named it Pakistan, [although] it has the same problems.”

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2023

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