News Desk |
A full board review by the censorship board of Shoaib Mansoor’s movie “Verna” took place in a local cinema in Islamabad in the evening of 15th November 2017. This followed a private viewing by senior officials of the ministry of information -including Maryam Aurangzeb, state minister in the evening of Nov 14. After these multiple reviews, screening for the film has been allowed but with a few “cuts” and few “mutes”
The film was initially all set for its premiere on 14th in Lahore, 15th in Islamabad, and 16th in Karachi and then countrywide screening on the 17th of November. But the first censorship board review that took place in the three cities mentioned, on Nov 14, did not issue the “NOC for Screening” leading to controversy and heated debates on social media and television.
Perhaps, realizing the controversy and respect which Shoaib Mansoor (famous for path breaking, “Khuda Kiye Liye” and “Bol”) enjoys, Ministry of Information decided for a first private review of the movie that took place in the evening of Nov 14. This review was attended by high-ranking officials of the ministry of information including the Minister of State for Information Ms. Maryam Aurangzeb, secretary information Ahmed Sukhera and DG External Publicity, Shafqat Jaleel and others. All officials from the information ministry concluded in their unanimous decision that there is nothing in the film that is harmful to the public.
“Verna” is now going to be released countrywide but will be without it’s only hit song and many scenes still deemed inappropriate.
If anything they thought the film was too serious but did not raise objections against the content of the film like the censorship board had done, sources familiar with the process reveal. The film, as mentioned earlier by GVS in its news stories, does not contain any rape scenes. It tries to engage audiences in an intellectual discussion about system of law and justice. It shows how a married woman gets raped by the son of a high ranking official, who happens to be the governor, and how the government covers it up.
The governor has the support of 5-6 members of the National Assembly and is very influential so they are afraid that if he abdicates, the coalition government might collapse. Due to this the interior ministry, FIA, and the police try to exonerate the rapist by manipulating the evidence.
Cases of government corruption are discussed on the multiple news channels in Pakistan 24/7. The officials from the Interior Ministry were shocked that a NOC was not given initially and were surprised to hear the members of the censorship board cite the theme of the movie as the reason for it being denied screening. However what confuses the journalist is that censor boards in all three cites – Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi – did not issue the NOC certificate.
However sources in film distribution industry point out that while film censor is purely a provincial subject, but ever since the entry of Indian movies on Pakistani cinema, censors of Punjab and Sindh keep waiting for clearance in Islamabad. KP, Baluchistan, Azad Kashmir and GB don’t have their censor boards – they also have few cinemas. Having said this, Punjab Censor has still not issued NOC to Varna and now its claiming that it will only be issued after a Full Board Review – as was done in Islamabad.
Was censor ban a marketing ploy?
There has also been speculation that the distributors of the film had somehow influenced the censorship board and got a poor first review to get an initial ban and cause a publicity stunt to boost the popularity of the film. Those officials who have watched “Varna” have described it as a lackluster film without a lot of star power, good songs or interesting dialogues. At least one person, a source reveals, has described it as a “low cost, low cast, low budget movie”
With Mahira Khan the only well-established name in the cast, the point being made is understandable. Shoaib Mansoor however, prefers working with and launching new stars as he did when he introduced Mahira Khan to the silver screen with his film “Bol” that came out in 2011. It is said, in film industry, that Shoaib does not believe in hiring “big stars”, he creates “stars” – and Mahira Khan is his brilliant creation.
A full board review by the censorship board of Shoaib Mansoor’s movie “Verna” took place in a local cinema in Islamabad on the 14th of November 2017.
The only hit song, sources argue, in the movie is the rap song ‘Power Di Game’ and the movie itself was relying on intellectual dialogue to get audiences to watch the movie. People are arguing that viewers may not have been all that excited about of the movie because of the largely unfamiliar cast, serious plot and only one hit song, had it not been for the controversy. The sophisticated dialogue was not going to make the film a financial success. Film reportedly has Geo TV court reporter, Qayyum Siddiqui, in a supporting role. The impression that Shoaib Mansoor has been cutting corners is definitely there.
An industry official, while speaking to GVS, stated that it is not up to the censorship board to decide whether a movie is going to be a success or not. He added that the government was involved in the ban of the film because of how it exposes corruption in our society.
The first censorship board review that took place in the three cities mentioned before, did not allow the screening of the movie and did not release a NOC leading to controversy and heated debates on social media and television.
According to him the censorship board’s initial reason for the ban was just an excuse because they had said the theme was inappropriate because it discussed rape.However, the censorship board has also taken out the hit song ‘Power Di Game’ that is very critical of the government and the legal system. That song has nothing to do with rape and just discusses the government’s dishonesty.
What happens next?
“Verna” is now going to be released countrywide but will be without it’s only hit song and many scenes still deemed inappropriate. After this whole scenario, one thing for sure is that “Verna” has definitely gotten its fair share of added publicity. However, was the initial ban and censoring of some scenes because of a carefully engineered plan by the distributors or because of the government’s inability to handle any criticism, even if its presented through an artistic lens?