Shoaib Mansoor Versus The Censors
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Shoaib Mansoor Versus The Censors

Over the past four decades of Pakistani film, television, and music, Shoaib Mansoor has been a one-man institution that has weathered the changing tides of time and trends. Whether it was directing pioneering television serials like Ankahi, being the creative force behind Vital Signs and Junaid Jamshed, or breaking new ground for Pakistani cinema with Khuda Kay Liye, the Pride of Performance and Sitara-e-Imtiaz winner has done it all. His productions have not only pushed the creative envelope but have also defied the strict conditions imposed by the censors of the day. On his 69th birthday, we take a look at some of his works where he seems to have got away with what would have been considered for its time, risqué material. (Warning: Spoilers ahead)

Dil Dil Pakistan (1987)

Under the Zia-ul-Haq regime, popular music was actively discouraged and PTV, the only television in the country, was strictly controlled to ensure adherence to the government’s official code of morals. While the channel made an exception for Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, it was with the airing of Dil Dil Pakistan during the summer of 1987 that the country got its first taste of a homegrown music band on its airwaves. Needless to say, it opened the floodgates for numerous music acts to emerge in the coming years and Dil Dil Pakistan, with the Vital Signs clad in jeans and tee-shirt, went on to become the unofficial anthem of the country.

Sunehray Din (1991)

Sunehray Din was quite a popular television show in its day and was sort of a precursor to the more popular Alpha Bravo Charlie. Here, Shoaib Mansoor also managed to do the impossible, sneaking in a scene (shot with minimal lighting) that shows Saleem Sheikh’s character seemingly drunk, with a bottle in his hand, being caught by his parents. This is the pivotal point in the show’s plot that impels his family to send him off to the military. Surprisingly, there was little hue and cry by the censors, possibly because it would take careful viewing to understand what is going on.

Geetar 1993 (1993)

In an era where Zia’s censorship code was more or less still in place, Mansoor came up with a whole program dedicated solely to music videos of Vital Signs songs. While this in itself was a feat of sorts, he also managed to sneak in a shot of Mughal miniature depicting an intimate situation in Yeh Shaam Phir Nahi Ayegi.

Dhun Hamari Tumhare Naam Hui (2001)

While the censors had loosened their restrictions quite a bit by the turn of the millennium, Bollywood and its numerous song and dance routines were (and continue to be) a huge no. Enter Shoaib Mansoor, and well, nothing remains impossible for long. He wrote and directed Dhun Hamari Tumhare Naam Hui, a show dedicated to the uncountable number of Pakistani songs that were plagiarized across the border. Included were edited videos of some popular Bollywood songs – even a Rajasthani mujra number with its scandalous, innuendo-laden lyrics managed to make it to local screens. Phew!

Khuda Kay Liye (2007)

This entire movie was an open, unveiled cry of dissent against the established norms of local cinema. Mansoor singlehandedly brought the whole debate of music versus religion to the forefront and while he was at it, pushed through a scene with a jailed Shaan Shahid in his birthday suit. It has to be said it was all done in a very non-gratuitous manner, and the shots were necessary to highlight the plight of Shaan’s character. Besides that, the movie had numerous, what would be considered by local standards incendiary dialogues about religion and women.

Bol (2011)

Again, Shoaib Mansoor was at war against established norms here. In its original theatrical version, there was a situation where Iman Ali’s character hints at an incestuous angle. Plus, Mansoor (almost) took a stab at trans-love, although it was done in a manner that would not offend local sensibilities. Besides that, the second half of the film was occupied by the whole angle of a man of faith trysting with a tawaif for some money….ah well, let’s just say seeing is believing.

Verna (2017)

The movie’s plot centers on a rape victim avenging her rapist by feigning a relationship with him. Although none of the horrors were portrayed on screen, the theme itself was such that the film almost ended up being banned and its release in most parts of the country was delayed by a day or two.

The auteur is currently working on his next production starring Maya Ali and Emaad Irfani, titled ABG. While only time will tell which cinematic taboo he will break this time around, you can be sure that it most certainly will happen. Watch this space to stay updated!

Written by Faisal Ali H

I work as an economist and maintain an active interest in Pakistani cinema.

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