Leading overseas distributor Hirachand Dand, who had acquired the Pakistan rights of Raees, finds the ban on the film, “unprecedented and totally disappointing.” Dand, who is also the President of the Indian Film Exporters Association, admits that he bought the film as Pakistan is a huge market for Shah Rukh Khan-starrers.
“This was the first time I had acquired an SRK-starrer for Pakistan. I had great expectations from it because there was a huge curiosity about the film among his Pakistani fans. Also Mahira Khan is from Pakistan. Above all, it was a Muslim-centric film, ticking all boxes for a sure-shot hit,” he said.
Unfortunately for Dand, the film was unanimously rejected. “I was surprised when it was decided to have a ‘Full Board’ screening for the film. The Censor Board is in three places — Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi — and one of the three Boards generally review a film for clearance, but in some cases, when the content is perceived as controversial, they involve members of all the three boards. In the case of Raees, members of all the three Boards, sat on the screening, after which they called for a ban on the film. It was a big setback,” he said.
“The Full Board felt that it was unprecedented that the hero was shown as a violent Muslim character, going on a killing spree. In a majority of the films, it was always the villain, who was seen doing it, Moreover, this time it was no less a star than Shah Rukh Khan, who was the protagonist,” he added.
Interestingly, both Shah Rukh and Ritesh Sidhwani had initially abstained from releasing the film in Pakistan. They, apparently, had reservations about releasing the film in Pakistan. It was only after the release of Kaabil last week, that they reconsidered their decision and promised to give delivery of the film. “We are in an industry where decisions change overnight and I was glad that they had changed their stance, but unfortunately, the film was not destined to release there,” Dand concluded.
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