Agent Vinod is the latest but history of Bollywood films banned in Pakistan go a long long way! It was 1965 when for the first time government of Pakistan censored Bollywood films. It was Ayub Khan, under whose military rule Indian films were banned due to the war, India and Pakistan were fighting back then over Kashmir, known as the ‘second Kashmir war’. That was the time of utter hostility between the two nations and as Ayub wanted to assert his position even more in Pakistan and to construct a strong national identity, he took this step.
Pakistan anyway loved Bollywood films way too much with those who had the means to do so, kept visiting India often for the cinema experience. Also piracy got its golden age kicked off with this ban as VHS tapes started spreading inside the country and our borders became a place for illegal trade and more action on the war front when hostilities became even stark. There were exceptional cases like ‘Soni-Mahiwal’ a film based on popular Punjabi Folklore (Punjab is there on both sides of the border) and ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ when ban was lifted up limitedly. Soni-Mahiwal interestingly was a Indo-Russian joint production and its distributor fought a legal tussle to screen the film but what worked in its favour was its inspiration from local roots.
Parvez Musharraf Government lifted up this 1965 ban on Bollywood films in Pakistan in 2008 and My Name is Khan was the first film, which was released officially. This ban was more due to pressure from the Cinema hall owners who were on the verge of extinction with less popular Lollywood (Pakistan’s Lahore based film industry) failing to draw crowds. Since then it has actually led to a revival in the fortunes of Cinema industry in Pakistan and even Bollywood filmmakers count Pakistan as an important territory but there are occasional ebbs such like Agent Vinod when Pakistan government bans Bollywood films yet again but the ban is limited to that particular film alone. In the recent times besides Agent Vinod that has reportedly been banned because Saif plays a RAW agent exposing anti-India elements in ISI, The Dirty Picture was also banned in Pakistan over the bold scenes and vulgar dialogues. ‘Tere Bin Laden’ was also banned in Pakistan, which tickled Indians and was one of the few homegrown films of its kind, which showed the west their true self in the mirror and was a classic Indo-Pak effort with lead actor Ali Zafar being a Pakistan national.