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Why Sonam Kapoor's 'Neerja' may have been banned in Pakistan

Indian actress Sonam Kapoor essays the role of a real-life hero, Neerja Bhanot, who sacrificed her life while saving the lives of passengers on that ill-fated flight nearly 30 years ago. (Screen grab)

By Desiree Francis (a blog)

Being a Pakistani based in Dubai, I was delighted at the thought that I would get to watch 'Neerja' – the 'controversial' movie that has been banned in Pakistan.

I would be able to decide for myself then, why Pak authorities would not want to show it to the awam (public) there.

(An update – Pakistani media reports that earlier this week it was revealed that the NOC for the film's import was revoked by the federal commerce ministry soon after the document was issued. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) maintains that the film should not be considered 'banned' in Pakistan since it was not submitted to them.)

So yeah, armed with my regulars – husband, popcorn and drink – I headed to the theatre. I can swear I watched 'Neerja' with absolutely NO pre-conceived notions.

The biopic was extremely gripping in terms of the performances, the filming, the choice and positioning of music. Sonam Kapoor fit the skin of the role well – I could hardly think of the actor apart from the role – and Shabana ji's stellar acting (particularly during that befitting tribute to Neerja) made me cry.

Here was the story of a young girl who was both intelligent and incredibly spunky. What's not to like?

Also, after a few really nasty experiences with air hostesses, 'Neerja' made me find new respect for the profession.

As I walked out of the theatre, I kept wondering why the fate of the movie was the way it was in Pakistan.

"Nothing can be more heart-warming than an Indian father connecting with a Pakistani during his time of pain," writes Desiree Francis in her blog. (Pic: Supplied)

As an absolutely realistic Pakistani, I have learned to accept our faults, if any, and move ahead for the better. However, these are some of the reasons I could think of:

1. It shows Pakistan in a negative light

Well, technically yes. It does show Arabic speaking terrorists operating from our land, getting explosives in the guise of sweets, etc. In accordance with media laws, therefore, it does hamper the sovereignty of the nation. We don’t want to show people the possibility of such a thing happening on a mass scale! (Whether it happens or not is another question.) To top it all, it’s an Indian movie, so it could ALL be part of a bigger scheme. A Hollywood action film we can ignore, it’s easier to do that. I hope you understand.

Seriously though, that scene where they drive through the airport gate to reach the runway was a bit overdone.

2. It shows Pakistani intelligence/authorities as unintelligent

Yes. Particularly the part where the official speaking to the hijacker reveals – "you have a radio engineer on board" and gives the name of the person. Well, if the person had to volunteer he would have done so by then, wouldn't he? That was rather questionable. Did I just hear you say "Well, it happened?" Well, there's always two sides to a story, and I'm quite convinced that there was little research on actual accounts from the day on this side of the border.

Then, there was the part where the authorities decided to attack at night. Older acquaintances who remember the fateful day, say: "that decision on the part of authorities was considered quite silly. Why would you deal in such a drastic way instead of negotiating further?" Of course, that too is debatable.

3. It shows the common Pakistani characteristic of "bas, paanch minute aur" (5 mins more)

Of course, we don't want to tell people that we are usually late for events, etc., and the airport official did the same to the terrorist – having him linger for hour after hour after hour...

On the Indo-Pak front, I still like 'Neerja' – the film and the character – because:

1. It depicted my city's feel

It felt almost like Karachi. So well done to the ‘Neerja’ team on that.

2. Neerja (Bhanot) was a life saver

Neerja saved the lives of people on the plane irrespective of nationality. Her goal was to deter the terrorists from killing anyone at all. It was remarkable on her part to do such a thing in her line of duty. That is commendable.

3. The warm ties between Indian and Pakistani media

The movie shows a positive link between an Indian and a Pakistani media person. It shows how an Indian father in his time of pain connects to his Pakistani contact, disregarding any bias/negative opinions.

It was heart-warming to see that human emotion was the connect here and that no borders could separate that

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Emirates 24|7 and Emirates 24|7 does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Desiree Francis, is a journalist turned PR professional working for BuyDoBuy Advertising Dubai. Her blog first appeared on Indian website 'The Quint' and have been reproduced on Emirates 24|7 with the consent of all parties.