National interest-ed


Ek Tha Censor comes in the way of ‘Ek Tha Tiger’

The censor board has our sympathies in at least one respect: clearing movies with even a remote aside about the ISI. It’s a job hazard even if the idea to ban movies on the decidedly fragile basis of “national interest” is way out of sync with today’s global village.

Certainly not your ‘21st century’ fox vision.

Ek Tha Tiger is the latest Bollywood blockbuster to go on the chopping block. There’s nothing in the frilly script to make your skin crawl about hurt “national interest”. It makes you wonder who is funnier: Katrina Kaif as the ISI agent or the frightened scissors on behalf of you-know-who.

Earlier this year, it was Kareena Kapoor who was stealing hearts in the same avatar, and then too, the scissors had decided she had better do that back home rather than a cinema anywhere near this side of the Indus.

All of this sounds a touch autistic set against the voluble drama of works coming out from the US of A as well as some at home (Shaukat Qadir’s, for instance) that raise quite a pitch about the wares and prowess of the “national interest-ed” sleuths. Significantly, none of these have been chopped.

It would be interesting also to see what fate Zero Dark Thirty, the forthcoming Hollywood flick that will hone in on the world’s most famous raid in a now-conveniently demolished compound in Abbottabad, meets.

May be, the scissors will be out in a habitual streak but it won’t be easy since that would invite more ridicule. But then not again, since we’re less touchy if the “offending” party is not one from across the border.

Earlier this year, Agent Vinod, also from the House of Bollywood, shot itself somewhere in the nether regions before taking off for Pakistan. Predictably, its screening was also banned. Such attempts to get the better of the ISI — even on reel — are usually doomed to meet such fate.

A previous attempt to draw inspiration from the life and crimes of Osama bin Laden — albeit with pun intended — was an also-no ran. The irony, then, was that our metrosexual poster boy, Ali Zafar, was enacting the comic version and we couldn’t get to gloat about it officially since it never hit the silver screens.

Our censor board people are usually more tight-lipped than the Foreign Office spokesperson when it comes to contentious issues. If they are pushed to come on record, the standard refrain is that such works fall under the “negative codes and it was our judgment that these should not be allowed to be screened.”

The very purpose of banning films is usually enormously defeated thanks to pirated material, which draws on curiosity and DVDs soon start to proliferate like the dengue mosquito. May be worse.

Ek Tha Tiger has sneaked in well and truly in what is an open season on our sleuths since Osama bin Laden failed to watch his spoof at a cinema near Abbottabad.

The excuse trotted out then was that silver screening may lead to reprisal attacks. That was a decidedly, predetermined stroke — a la Shahid Afridi — since who knows people might have just lost their heads laughing at the spectacle.

Chances are even Osama in his now-demolished haven would have enjoyed seeing the clever depiction of his modest video-making skills beating the daylights out of the Yankees. He was, probably, good at using torrents anyways.

Looking at the swelling ranks of missing persons, it is advisable to put in a disclaimer here. This piece is not a frenzied push towards rethinking the ban imposed on the likes of Ek Tha Tiger, Agent Vinod or Tere Bin Laden — to be sure, it was good to see happy neighborhood children on TV extol the virtues of vast empty spaces for slogging sixes as a result of obliterating OBL’s haven.

Rather it is, in part, inspired by the often-ignored pedestrian story-telling in Bollywood when it comes to bashing the Invisible-Soldiers Incorporated. Films next-door often require suspension of belief but the ambition of Bollywood filmmakers to run down the ISI is so filmy you wonder what is worse — the flick itself or the flick of the wrist involved in banning the works.

Think of flicks that find Pakistan at the receiving end of Bollywood’s patriotic current and Sunny Deol springs to mind — he of the dhaai kilo ka haath (a much indulged heavy hand — weighing approximately 2.5kg) frame.

Movie buffs attuned to frothier dialogues would recall him suggesting in one famous frame: Jab ye haath kissi pe parta hai naa, tau admi uthta nahi, uth jaata hai (when this blow is rained on a person, he is a goner — admittedly, this one cannot be translated accurately, for reasons of native machismo).

The fact is that nearly all Bollywood flicks to date with references to our “national interest-ed” concerns have been such tame affairs — except perhaps, when the enactment has had belles to die for (the Kareenas and Katrinas) — that no serious movie buff can even remotely be influenced by the trajectory.

One would rather, playing the devil’s advocate, advise playing these on if only to show what it’s all really worth. Assuredly, there’s just eye candy when the script gets a little dandy. Otherwise, just a few chortles.

Or as Ali Zafar’s single Voh Dekhney Mein in the recently released rom-com London Paris New York suggested: Philosophy ka craze hai.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad and can be reached at [email protected]