How Pakistan banned a new drama – and presented it for the Oscars

S.Armed Bosat was smoking early in the morning in Bosan, South Korea, when he received the text. The Pakistani director and actor went to the city for the world premiere of his second film Zinda Tamasha (Circus of Life). Strict smoking laws in the country meant that a careful corner had to be found to illuminate it. Then came the WhatsApp message from the Central Board of Film Censors back home.

Unlike most countries, it is in Pakistan Not one but three film censor boards, All independent organizations that certify films in accordance with their territorial jurisdiction. Although the country’s film industry dates back to the 1950s, Pakistan is known locally and internationally for its television productions. Television dramas and serials are celebrated for their sophisticated scripts and prominent portrayal of family and social conflicts. Efforts have been made by private television channels, independent producers and even the Pakistani military to improve the film industry, which itself provides funding for action-packed, linguistic films.

Whatever the intentions of Pakistan’s soft power, the censor board’s sanctions have not benefited the film business. At the height of #MeToo, the Central Board of Film Censors banned Varna, a film about a girl who survived a rape, calling it objectionable. The ban was eventually lifted, but only after public outcry.

Still, Khosat was concerned. His film had already been cleared by the three censors, even removing the under-rating from the Punjab board. He was awaiting release date. Instead, he was told: There has been a complaint against your film.

Sarmad Khosat
Sarmad Khusat: “It moved me from love to love.” Photo: Fatima Sattar

It was based on watching the trailer of Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right party of fundamentalists. They wanted to ban the film, calling it “insulting” – ultimately a potentially deadly accusation of “disrespecting religious scholars” (none of which is in the film) – and creating chaos, anarchy and sectarian strife. Reduced to promote. The inspector told Khushat, “There is trouble in getting in your way, great trouble.”

When Khushsan returned home, when he won a big prize in the bus, he was outraged by the TLP. Good-natured spent the next year in a state of harassment and intimidation, a furious and seemingly relentless campaign. Although the film was presented to a committee of Pakistani senators, which recommended its release, it has not yet secured the paperwork required for the release of cinema in Pakistan. “Before Zindagi Tamasha, I was a very popular screen person in most parts of the country,” Khusht said of a video call.

Khusht, the son of an actor and comedian, the brother of a producer and playwright, was once a favorite in the Pakistani entertainment industry. He directed Pakistan’s most popular TV drama in decades, Humsafar (Fellow), which was recently brought to the global audience by Netflix. In 2016, Khosat was awarded the Pride of Performance Medal by the President for his outstanding role in Pakistan’s film and television industry. He made international headlines as an actor – a prisoner of the death row No time to sleep, 24 hour performance Broadcast online on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty in 2018. And the spectacle of life is now – surprisingly – in the hands of Pakistan at the Oscars.

This is a good opportunity to be shortlisted. It’s a beautiful, disturbing film about shame, social media and masculinity. There is a Punjabi follower named Rahat who is gaining local fame as a singer Nuts, Religious thirst, even one day someone films an innocent moment on their phone: Rahat is a lovely Punjabi song, life is dancing on the spectacle. Relief is never meaningless, it is never obscene. For the brief moment he erupted on the song, he was not the old man caring for his bitter, sick wife, but a young boy who had been transformed by the old joy of music and film. Yet the video that has surfaced has broken his small world. Some people stop him for selfies, others spit on him and denied him the right to celebrate Eid Milad-un-Nabi on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday, now he is allowed to sing his praises from his childhood. Does not give

The idea for the film came after he accidentally stumbled upon a real-life video of a bearded Punjabi man dancing to Punjabi movie songs on YouTube like a mullah and then apologizing to him. It turned out to be a film that asked difficult questions.

“I put my 18 years of experience into it,” he says. “I didn’t want to do anything sensational – all the dramas were in the bay.” He himself funded the film and kept the script secret, not allowing strict copies to be set during certain scenes, keeping in mind Pakistan’s tense politics. It’s a delicate word he uses over and over again when we speak. Let’s be delicate in describing the process; This is a delicate film. It was filmed on location in Lahore, during the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations of the real life of these prophets in 2018, the camera was rising above the hard, washed streets as a procession of people and the ghost umbrellas of fairy lights and tensils. Traffic was moving down, giving this message at the same time. Crushing people and DVD vendors, installation women and elderly men living secret lives are in the spotlight. The song from which the film takes its Urdu title has a double effect every time one watches Rahat’s viral video: once Rahat’s happy joy is brought to mind and at the same time, his There is a dark prediction about what it will cost.

Hassan and Samia Mumtaz at Zindagi Festival.
Hassan and Samia Mumtaz at Zindagi Festival. Photograph: Khushat Movies

The Live Spectacle is the most complex film coming out of the subcontinent in recent years, full of details of the intimate life of a poor, urban subcontinent: a man sleeping on a hospital floor, covered with a thin blanket from home. During the day, the empty smiles of the TV hosts talk about whether banana is good for digestion or not. Spicy, barbecued chicken was wrapped in sogi newspaper and taken home in a plastic bag.

Khusht has long faced a campaign of death threats. Her phone number was leaked and she was sent endless photos of severed heads. He was forced to write an open letter to the government, even considering releasing an apology video similar to the one he was forced to play the lead role in at one point. TLP chief Khadim Rizvi vowed that the film would be released on his body (he died in November and was received by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, a political ally). Condolences expressed on Twitter). On one occasion, even the mullahs were talking about reviewing the film together, the idea was not a problem for Khusht. “I was ready to do it,” he said, adding that it did not happen. If I separate myself from my core audience in Pakistan, it is a great failure. The film was made with a lot of heart for the locals.

We talk during the break from shooting. Khosat’s next feature film is in post-production and he is ready with a new project by the end of the evening. Because of the coveted, generally strict rules for presenting the Oscars were relaxed and films released online were qualified. The live show continued the week-long release of Geo-Blocked Pakistan on Vimeo – but even more terrifying, due to the vitriolic environment. Despite being cleared by a large board of censors and a committee of senators, the film still lacks the paperwork required for release in its home country.

Overwhelmed by anxiety, Khost has since had tinnitus and is deaf in his left ear. Still, he’s encouraging. Chen in hand, he smiles in the dark light of a computer camera. “I’m still looking for my small margin to work on.”

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