News Analysis |
Sources within the film industry, censorship board, and distributors report that Shoaib Mansoor’s long-awaited film Verna starring Mahira Khan and Haroon Shahid is not being released. This will surely create a crisis for the film distributors, the cinemas and the producers of the film.
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The film was going to premiere on the 14th of November 2017 in Lahore, the 15th in Islamabad, the 16th in Karachi and countrywide on the 17th. Many cinemas had also made pre-bookings for the screening of the film. However, after three separate showings of the film in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi, the censorship board has decided not to issue a screening certificate for the highly anticipated film.
Sources point out that the members of the censorship board have taken a strong position against the film. Ironically, the film has not been banned due to violence, nudity or a specific scene in the movie. The film has been given this treatment because the censorship board opposes the entire theme of the film.
The distributors at HUM TV have requested for a larger censor board to view the movie.
The members of the censorship board, have not given any official explanation but apparently they have issues with the “theme” of the film. The plot of the movie is about a woman played by Mahira Khan who is raped by the son of a governor while she is married to someone else. The movie revolves around her trying to seek justice for the heinous act committed against her.
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Those who attended the screenings of the film and are familiar with the plot of the film state that the movie does not show any rape scenes. It does not even identify the “rapist”; the movie is instead centered on the corruption and abuse of power in the political and legal system in Pakistan. In the film, the governor whose son commits the act is protected by his influential father who, with the help of the police and FIA, manipulates the evidence to exonerate his son. Movie, as an art product, thus holds mirror to the political system.
The movie also does not depict a specific political party and shows a coalition government in power but shows that the governor has control over around a dozen national assembly members and he holds the balance of power.
Sources familiar with the script state that this misuse of authority and abuse of power is an accurate representation of Pakistani society. This corrupt system is discussed on a daily basis by the two-dozen news channels in the country.
HUM TV representatives have requested that the censor board should invite members of the civil service, including journalists and people in the media to watch the movie
The theme of the film, which is centered on rape, should also not be alien to audiences in Pakistan. Rape in parts of Punjab, the feudal parts of South Punjab, as well as Sindh and KPK is common and can often go unpunished. Despite the initial public reactions, the arrests and the political statements the issue is never resolved and the culprits are seldom convicted. This is why movies like Verna that highlight this issue are so important.
Shoaib Mansoor’s movie is not saying anything that is shocking for the common Pakistani that watches television, reads the newspaper or has access to online news portals. However, a film like this could have brought forward the contradictions in our society into a starker reality.
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The purpose of cinema is to use art to offer social commentary on issues that plague a society. Movies all over the world do this. Bollywood films like Pink and Highway, along with many others portray Indian society realistically and comment on the injustice in the society like rape and child abuse by using art as their medium.
Shoaib Mansoor is known for making innovative films that highlight social issues like Bol and Khuda Ke Liye. It’s a shame that a Shoaib Mansoor movie that highlights a problem like rape, which is very common in Pakistan, is being prevented from being released.
Sources familiar with the script state that this misuse of authority and abuse of power is an accurate representation of Pakistani society.
The distributors at HUM TV have requested for a larger censor board to view the movie. When a limited censor board of 4-5 people makes a judgment on a movie, they can request for a larger group of censor board members.
The final decision with the new censor board will be made in the evening on the 14th of November. HUM TV representatives have requested that the censor board should invite members of the civil service, including journalists and people in the media to watch the movie so they too can judge if anything is inappropriate or not.
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It is unlikely that the censor board will listen to this request and since the theme of the entire film is the problem at hand, the release is looking very unlikely. If a few scenes were an issue, they could have been cut out. However, that is not the case. One can only hope that this movie gets released, as Shoaib Mansoor’s films never fail to leave a lasting impact on all the viewers.