Pahlaj Nihalani Lashes Out At Pakistan Censor Board’s Ban On Raees

Subhash K Jha , 09 Feb 2017

Branding the new Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees as “anti-Muslim,” Pakistan’s censor board has banned its release in Pakistan, a crippling blow for the morale of the film’s Pakistani’s leading lady. Having missed out on the film’s release and post-release euphoria in India, Mahira Khan was hoping to enjoy the film with the audience in Pakistan and to savour the fruits of success first-hand.

“The two Khans together (Shah Rukh and Mahira)… it means a lot to the audience here,” Mahira had excitedly said to me over the phone.

However, that was not to be. On Monday evening, Pakistan’s censor board banned the film, a move that has not gone down well with Pahlaj Nihalani, the Indian censor board’s chairperson.

Says Mr Nihalani:

What do they mean by saying Raees is anti-Muslim? Do they care more about the sensitivities of the community than we do? Let me remind them that there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. And we at the CBFC (Censor Board Of Film Certification) follow guidelines regarding the sensitivities of all communities very carefully.

The CBFC chairperson refuses to accept the Pakistan censor board’s verdict on Raees:

The protagonist in Raees is shown to be a Robin Hood. He helps the needy, works for the betterment of the poor, dislikes dishonesty and respects his country. More than all these factors, it is Shah Rukh Khan who plays Raees. Does the Pakistan’s censors think a superstar of Shah Rukh’s stature would play an anti-Muslim character? Shah Rukh is always careful not to hurt anyone’e sentiments.

Pahlaj Nihalani sees the ban as a huge setback to Pakistan’s film industry:

The ban on Indian films had just been lifted by Pakistan’s government bringing relief to the movie theatres. Now the Pakistani censor board bans the biggest blockbuster of the season. I am sorry to say this won’t stop Pakistanis from seeing the film. They will watch the film on pirated videos and on the internet. They want to see their own Khan (Mahira) with King Khan. They can’t be stopped.

He doesn’t see this “unfair” ban as the end of the road for Raees in Pakistan: “The film’s Pakistani distributors can go to the revising committee who will hopefully see that Raees is not anti-Muslim. It is anti-crime.”

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