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Indian film featuring Bin Laden look-alike banned

(PPF/IFEX) - On 13 July 2010, Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) banned the showing of an Indian comedy, "Tere Bin Laden" (Without You Laden), scheduled to be released in cinemas in Pakistan on 16 July, for fear that it could spark terrorist attacks. The movie distributors had offered to amend the movie's title to "Tere Bin" (Without You) because of sensitivity surrounding the words "Bin Laden".

According to press reports, the Walkwater Media Productions' film is about a Pakistani journalist who, desperate to get a visa to the US, pretends to have secured an interview with the elusive al-Qaeda chief after finding a look-alike. Though an Indian film, it is unusual because it stars a Pakistani pop singer and actor, Ali Zafar.

Masood Ellahi, acting vice chairman of the CBFC, said the board watched the movie and the majority felt that it is not suitable for exhibition. The 57 member board is made up of members of the media, public representatives and religious clerics. The issue has now been forwarded to the appellate board of Pakistan's Federal Ministry of Culture, which has the authority to overrule the censor board.

Nadeem Mandviwalla, a movie exhibitor, said, "It is the mindset of our bureaucracy that they don't support legal methods. Now the movie will be screened by illegal cable operators and makers of pirated DVDs." It is worthwhile to note that while the Pakistani government has banned Indian movies in the past, these films have been made openly available to the general public through illegal means on a large scale.

The central character of the movie, the Pakistani actor Zafar, who is in Mumbai, has expressed disappointment over the decision. In a statement issued to the press about the censor board's resolution, Zafar said, "People will be viewing the film anyway through pirated DVDs." He appealed to the authorities to review the decision as the film is simply a comedy.

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