But on Tuesday the chairman of the Pakistan’s film censors said the country’s cinemas would not be allowed to screen the movie. “Yes, the censor certificate has not been issued to the film Raees for having inappropriate content,” said Mubashir Husain. He did not reveal why the film had been banned but referred to media reports about the plot of the film in which Khan plays a Muslim smuggler who wins election from jail.
Dawn, a national newspaper, had earlier reported that the film’s “content undermines Islam … portraying Muslims as criminals, wanted persons and terrorists”.
Indian films, with their pot-boiling scripts and spectacular dance routines, have been a key driver of a renaissance in Pakistani cinemas after decades of decline. The return of audiences, attracted by modern multiplex cinemas and a liberalisation on the rules around Bollywood movies, have been credited with helping revive interest in Pakistani-produced films as well. Cinemas are vulnerable to regular bouts of turbulence in the fraught relationship between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals that have fought four conflicts since independence in 1947.
Tension spiked after Indian security forces launched a crackdown on protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir last July, after the killing of a young Muslim separatist leader by security forces. Relations worsened in September, when militants attacked an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir and killed 18 soldiers, a raid India blamed on Pakistan. Islamabad denied involvement but the diplomatic fallout and New Delhi’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally prompted calls in India for a ban on Pakistani actors in the country’s giant Bollywood film industry.
Pakistani cinemas stopped screening Indian films for 11 weeks from last September, and government curbs still prevent cable providers from broadcasting Indian television channels. Muhammad Waseh, a student and film fan in Islamabad, said he was “outraged and upset” by the decision not to allow Raees to be screened in Pakistan.
“There is nothing wrong with the movie but our government is retaliating against Indian for banning our actors from performing in India,” he said.