Pakistani activists, writers, artists urge PM to lift ban on Nandita Das’s Manto

After Indian actress-filmmaker Nandita Das expressed her disappointment on her film Manto (2018) not getting clearance to be released in Pakistan, the country’s information and broadcasting minister Fawad Chaudhry has extended help with an online petition urging prime minister Imran Khan to lift the ban on its screening.

“Disappointed that Manto will not be seen in theatres in Pakistan. I was keen as he belongs to both countries equally,” Das had tweeted on Saturday (15 December).

Her post, which included the link of an article – which she penned for a news website, explaining why the film won’t be crossing India’s borders – led Chaudhry to respond.

“I am trying to pursue importers to bring this movie to Pak [Pakistan]. I hope someone will definitely take risk of showing a less commercial film to the viewers,” he wrote of the film, which traces the life of writer Saadat Hasan Manto.

Das, who has herself featured in a Pakistani film titled Ramchand Pakistani (2008), responded with “Shukriya”.

Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui had brought the character to life in the movie, which follows the most tumultuous years in the life of the writer and those of India and Pakistan where Manto inhabited and chronicled.

Danyal Gilani, chairman of Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC), told IANS, a news agency, via social media: “Manto wasn’t cleared by the board as the members found it in violation of the censorship code.”

However, he said an importer had the right to request a review.

Industry sources from Pakistan told IANS that nobody was importing Manto as it lacked “commercial appeal”.

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Das, on Saturday, said the reasons cited by the Pakistan censor board for not clearing Manto were that “the film has anti-Partition narrative theme and explicit scenes, which is against the norms of Pakistani society”.

According to Dawn newspaper, an online petition has been initiated to demand that prime minister Imran Khan lift the ban on its screening.

The open letter says: “Manto, a critically acclaimed film, directed by Nandita Das, celebrates the life of the Urdu writer who chose Pakistan as his home during the Partition but is collectively owned and revered by the people of the sub-continent. The audiences and critics worldwide have appreciated the film.

If cinema was not a powerful medium, there wouldn’t be bans or censorship: Nandita Das at IFFK 2018

“However, it is a matter of huge concern that Pakistan has recently decided to ban the film. The disappointing decision to ban the film has created a hue and cry among writers, poets and intellectuals in the literary circles of Pakistan”.

This is a ray of hope for Das.

Appreciating the efforts, the actress-filmmaker tweeted on Sunday (16 December): “I am grateful to the activists, writers, artists and concerned citizens in Pakistan who have spontaneously come together and signed an open letter to their PM appealing…”

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