Actor-producer Shamoon Abbasi’s upcoming film Durj seems unlikely to be released in theatres across Pakistan as its censor approvals hit a snag.
Abbasi told Images the film was initially cleared by film censor boards in both Punjab and Sindh, but rejected by the federal censor board.
“Suddenly, something happened; [the clearances from Punjab and Sindh] got revoked and the ones pending were put on hold. This is what we know for now and definitely, we will have to counter the process.”
Slated for an October 11 international release, the film will simultaneously release in multiple countries including US, UK, Canada, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar. It was intended to be released on October 18 in Pakistan.
Abbasi is unsure what could have been objectionable in the film, which is based on the true story of a pair of brothers who dug up over 100 graves and cannibalised the corpses. He says the objection would be more understandable had there been a unanimous rejection from all four provincial censor boards as well as the federal censor board based in Islamabad.
“We never wanted to glorify cannibalism. It [has] a storyline, and in the film, we researched about the mindset of these people and we tried to get at the root cause and the thought process so that others can understand how they think and act.”
“It’s a very sensitive film with no blood or gore, it’s not the type of film to be banned outright as such, so I am not sure what happened,” Abbasi added.
“Members of Central Board of Film Censors viewed the feature film as per prevalent censorship rules and did not consider it appropriate for public exhibition in cinema houses,” Danyal Gilani, chairman of the Central Board of Film Censors, told Images.
The Islamabad film censor board did not respond to calls for comment from Images at the time of writing.
Abbasi admitted that he and his team had not planned on releasing Durj in Pakistan at all, but decided to go ahead after receiving an overwhelming response when international release dates were announced.
“I said it will be released [in Pakistan], but honestly, we had a hunch that it could be a problem. But when it came to the censor board and — apart from two minor nude scenes — it was cleared, and we thought everything is fine because the film doesn’t have that sort of blood and gore.”
Once a film is rejected clearance for release, there is a process in place to appeal the decision. Abbasi hopes it will work in his favour.
“All I can say is we need a final panel to review it and be kind to us one last time, and give us a reason why two boards approved it and one federal didn’t. That’s the confusion at the moment.”