New Delhi, Oct 13: In a development that would be seen as a setback to the recent improvement in film screenings between India and Pakistan, the government in the neighbouring country has disallowed the screening of a film by UK-based Indian filmmaker Jagmohan Mundhra. Mundhra's latest film 'Shoot on Sight', inspired by the terrorists' attacks of July 7, 2005 on the London underground that resulted in Shoot On Sight order, has not found favour with the Pakistani authorities which did not clear it for exhibition in Pakistani theatres, thus stalling its simultaneous release with there India on Friday, Oct 17.
The film, featuring veteran actor Naseeruddin as a Muslim police officer at Scotland Yard who is tasked to investigate the police shooting of a suspected Muslim terrorist on the London Underground in the aftermath of the July 7 terrorist attacks but finds himself distrusted by both his British superiors in the London police, will now release in India with around 400 prints.
Director of the film Jagmohan Mundhra, says ''Shoot on Sight' was to simultaneously release in India and Pakistan on October 17.
But the Pakistani censors took objection to a character hailing from Pakistan in the film being shown as a terrorist and banned the film in the country.'' ''In 'Shoot on Sight' there is a character of an imam, played by Om Puri, who incites Muslim youth to carry out 'Jehad' in the name of Islam. Also the film has the character of a terrorist hailing from Pakistan. Both these characters did not go down well with the Pakistani Censors who rejected the film for exhibition in the country,''Jagmohan Mundhra told UNI here.
An appeal by the producers in the Tribunal against the decision of the Censors was also rejected, Mundhra said.
Expressing disappointment and dismay at the decision of Pakistani authorities to ban the film, Mundhra says,''in rejecting the film, the Pakistani authorities lost sight of the fact that the chief protagonist of the film played by Naseeruddin Shah, who reflects the moderate character of the Muslims, is from Pakistan. Also, another Pakistani character played by Bollywood actor Gulshan Grover is a positive one. So in a way the film has two positive characters from Pakistan and one negative one.'' In this context, Mundhra said during its screening at International film festivals in several parts of the world, the film had evoked appreciation from Pakistani audiences who felt that for the first time, a film has given voice to progressive Muslims.
''Unfortunately, however, because of the acts of some extremist Muslims, the majority of progressive Muslims are also seen in the same light. They also have to suffer 'Islamophobia' prevalent in the Western countries. This is what the film seeks to portray. It is unfortunate that the Pakistani Censor Board did not see the film in this light,''Mundhra said.
Mundhra said it was unfortunate that due to the ban on the screening of the film, the producers would lose the much needed revenue from the film.
''The ban on theatrical screening of the film has no meaning as even without it, the film will be seen by the Pakistani public through the pirated VCDs which are easily available in the markets.
And, now that the film has been banned, an increasing number of people will go for the pirated VCDs of the film. So while the film will get its audience (through pirated CDs), the producer will not get the revenue he would have got had the film released in Pakistani theatres,''Mundhra lamented.
Featuring Naseerudin Shah, Om Puri and Gulshan Grover along with Hollywood actors like Greta Scacchi, Brian Cox, Laila Rouass and Sadie Frost, 'Shoot on Sight' is a film in English which has been produced by Arun Govil Productions.
The release of the film's English Version will also be accompanied by the release of its Hindi dubbed version.
'Shoot On Sight', is a gripping thriller and riveting family drama that unfolds the turmoil in the life of Tariq Ali (Naseeruddin Shah), a Muslim police officer at Scotland Yard. Commander Ali, born in Pakistan, married to an English woman, and with two teenage kids, is tasked to investigate the police shooting of a suspected Muslim terrorist on the London Underground. Distrusted by both his British superiors in the London police, and his fellow Muslims, he finds his inquiry hampered from all sides.
When evidence surfaces pointing to the slain man's innocence, as well as the existence of a terrorist cell operating in his own backyard. Tariq must face the realisation that sometimes, the right decision is the hardest one to make.
Filmed entirely in London, 'Shoot on Sight' is based on a true story of Tariq Ali.
'' I was not trying to appease the fundamentalists when I was making the film. I made the film because after the bombings, I was in London and I noticed that my looks went against me, probably because I have a beard and I resemble a Muslim. I couldn't even get a taxi back to my apartment,' says Jag Mundhra.
'Shoot On Sight' is third in the series of films by Jagmohan Mundhra based on real life, after the Nandita Das-starrer 'Bawander' and the Aishwarya Rai-starrer 'Provoked'.
The film has already released in theatres in the United States and the United Kingdom where it has met with a mixed response.
Says Mundhra,''the film has opened to a missed response in the US and UK which is understandable since the film clearly points that they (whites) are 'Islamophobic.' So, a lot of people think the film is too insensitive since a lot of people have died in the blasts in London. Many felt it was insensitive to make a film on the subject so early when the wounds of the blasts have not even healed and felt that the producers were trying to cash on it. At the same time there have been people who have liked the film.'' Further, the film has been screened at several International film festivals, including the Osian's Cinefan film festival for Asian and Arab cinema held here in July this year.