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My first encounter with Sarmad Khoosat was when I interviewed him for his project (No Time To Sleep) a live theatre that was one of its kind and deserves an award for the performances and the concept. He did speak of a film project that he was working on at the time. One could clearly see the passion and the pure intent that he had in his eyes for the said project. I saw sitting before me a man who was determined to go to great lengths to serve his country through extraordinary artistic skills. Little did he know that all his efforts would be short lived and the fate of his beloved film that he worked so hard on would rest in the hands of a fragment of our society that ironically has the power to bring even the mighty governments down to their knees.
As if it wasn’t hard enough for the film to pass the tough scrutiny criteria of all four provinces’ censor boards, the film has now been referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology by the government. This does not only show the government’s sheer incompetence and the censor boards’ worthlessness but also raises a serious question about the governments’ capability to handle matters relating to art and culture.
In a time of the information warfare when the governments and agencies are propagating their narratives through their strong media presence both inside and outside the country, we continue to discourage efforts by young film makers who seek to present a lighter and a progressive image of this country through their work.
There is a lot more to the ongoing fiasco than meets the eye. The banning of Zindagi Tamasha speaks volumes about our society’s tolerance towards the voices of descent and the state’s role in handling such situations. We have repeatedly seen that the state finds itself helpless when a certain segment decides to take matters into its own hands.
Truth be told, we go all in when it comes to criticizing our neighboring country for not being as accommodating to the differing views when in reality we would have buried someone named Amrit Kumar alive for producing a film like PK in Pakistan.
It would be futile to blame the mob for their lunacy as there is no escaping it especially now that the political landscape is becoming more polarized by each day around the world. It’s the state’s job to keep the radical views in check and ensure freedom of expression in its many forms. We blatantly exemplify the west for its development and progress in our drawing room debates but ignore the fact that only when the west stopped suppressing the opposing views was it able to walk down a progressive path. It took them decades to reach where they are.
Even to this day, film & TV remain the primary mediums through which the artists and the journalists can openly promote critical thinking while remaining within the bounds of ethics. Censoring such ideas would only promote frustration and hypocrisy in the society. From Jacinda Ardern to Justin Trudeau, Jeremy Corbin and Arundhiti Roy, we have seen our people praise the liberal values of these leaders/ activists but whenever this soil has given birth to the likes of Asma Jahangir and Jibran Nasir, we have made it our life’s mission to oppose them and oppress them for their selfless activism.
The irony with liberals is, they are rarely owned by their own countries or people for that matter. This is not the first time that a progressive voice has been condemned and doomed to be lost in a dark abyss that engulfs our society. We have seen many lamps that have dared to unveil the hypocrisy prevailing in our society, lose their light to this fanaticism.
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