Top 10 Most Controversial Pakistani Films

DESIblitz presents the most provoking Pakistani films of all time – controversial projects that offend and thrill in equal measure.

Top 10 Most Controversial Pakistani Films - f

It was banned by the Punjab government.

Whilst the Pakistani film industry is flourishing thanks to the success of recent films such as The Legend of Maula Jatt and Parey Hut Love, many local films are still affected by censorship.

Historically speaking, the industry, otherwise referred to as Lollywood, has also been largely affected by political and social repression.

Films that fall outside of Pakistan’s preferred genres, i.e. romantic comedies and action-thrillers, are either deemed controversial or face a nationwide ban.

One such production is Saim Sadiq’s internationally recognised film Joyland.

The film was given the green light to release in Pakistan on November 18, 2022, but a week before its release, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) revoked the censor certificate granted to the filmmaker months ago over written complaints.

Joyland is not the only film that has received this treatment in Pakistan.

DESIblitz presents the top 10 most controversial Pakistani films.

Jago Hua Savera (1959)

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Jago Hua Savera told the story of East Pakistani fishermen and their struggles with loan sharks, set and shot in modern-day Bangladesh.

Directed by Lahore-based director A J Kardar, the film boasted a screenplay by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

However, just days before its premiere, it was stalled by General Ayub Khan. It was a joint production of East and West Pakistan.

When the film did premiere in London, members of Pakistan’s High Commission to the United Kingdom disobeyed instructions from the Pakistani government not to attend.

The film was selected as the Pakistani entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 32nd Academy Awards but was not accepted as a nominee.

It was also entered into the 1st Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Golden Medal.

Jibon Theke Neya (1970)

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Zahir Raihan’s political satire Jibon Theke Neya was a Bengali-language Pakistani film that the government had repeatedly tried to halt.

According to IMDb, the film portrayed the Bengali Language Movement of 1952 and was a tribute to the martyrs of the movement.

The story presents a dominating image of a woman in a family consisting of her husband, two brothers and servants.

It symbolised Ayub Khan’s regime while representing 1969’s mass uprising and the arrest of political workers.

Jibon Theke Neya has been described as an example of ‘national cinema’, using discrete local traditions to build a representation of the Bangladeshi national identity.

It is considered a milestone for Bangladeshi cinema and also a classic.

Insan Aur Gadha (1973)

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Insan Aur Gadha was a political satire film by Syed Kamal.

The film stars famous comedian Rangeela and was a satirical take on the human condition in Pakistan.

Rangeela played the human version of a donkey who had prayed to God to transform him into a human being.

Weeks after its release, the film was banned by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government based on a scene from the film that was a parody of the political leader.

The Pakistani film features Syed Mehmood Ali, Nisho, and Rozina.

Maula Jatt (1979)

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While Pakistan is celebrating the continued success of The Legend of Maula Jatt, the original Punjabi musical Maula Jatt, directed by Younis Malik, was banned shortly after its release due to its “excessive sexual content and violence”.

However, the producer was able to acquire a stay order.

The film starring Sultan Rahi, Mustafa Qureshi and Aasia got a two-and-a-half-year run in cinemas and saw widespread commercial success.

Its success set the trend of action films being popular in Pakistan and cemented Sultan Rahi as Lollywood’s main hero.

Over the years, the film has been able to attain cult status.

It spawned several sequels, becoming the first-ever successful unofficial franchise for a Pakistani title.

Maalik (2016)

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A political thriller directed by Ashir Azeem, Maalik stars Farhan Ally Agha, Adnan Shah Tipu, Hassan Niazi, Sajid Hasan and more.

Nearly eight days before it was supposed to hit theatres, the film was banned by the Sindh censor board and the Sindh government.

However, in September 2016, the ban was lifted by the Lahore High Court and the film was permitted to play on limited screens.

The Pakistani film received mixed reviews.

Rafay Mahmood of The Express Tribune called the film “unpolished” and “jingoistic propaganda” that “lacks coherence.”

He said: “Maalik is not a masterpiece yet isn’t something that should be missed.

“Watch it without any expectations and you might as well be surprised.”

Verna (2017)

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Directed by Shoaib Mansoor, Verna stars Mahira Khan, Haroon Shahid, Rasheed Naz, Naimal Khawar and Zarrar Khan.

It was banned by the CBFC which stated: “The general plot of the movie revolves around rape, which we consider to be unacceptable.”

After the board was heavily criticised for its decision by women’s rights campaigners, the film was released without any censors in November 2017.

Gulalai Ismail, human rights activist and founder of Aware Girls stated:

“Rape is a rampant issue in Pakistan. Movies like Verna are crucial in moving society forward.”

Durj (2019)

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Durj is a mystery film written and directed by Shamoon Abbasi.

Based on true events, the Pakistani film revolved around cannibalism.

The film was banned by the CBFC as they cited it being “inappropriate” for public viewing.

In an interview with Dawn News, Shamoon Abbasi stated that the film was inspired by true events which took place in Punjab and that although the film is based on cannibalism, it has multiple stories merged into one:

Durj‘s plot does not just revolve around cannibalism, it is about a cannibal but we have multiple stories.

“There are three stories which merge into one.”

Zindagi Tamasha (2019)

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Directed by Sarmad Khoosat, Zindagi Tamasha shows an intimate portrait of a family who lives in Lahore including a man who writes, composes, and even records religious hymns.

But one day, he attends a close family function where he inadvertently shows off a dance in front of his friends which makes it to social media and chaos begins for him and his family.

The release of the film was suspended after Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) announced protests against the film.

Sarmad Khoosat was also accused of blasphemy.

Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer (2022)

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Abu Aleeha’s film Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer is based on the investigation into Javed Iqbal, the serial killer who killed 100 young boys in Lahore and sent evidence of his crimes to the authorities and media in 1999.

It was banned by the Punjab government and since then there has been no update on the film’s release.

The film stars Yasir Hussain and Ayesha Omar.

Pakistani celebrities such as Iqra Aziz, Ali Rehman Khan and Osman Khalid Butt came out in the support of the makers and protested against the ban.

Joyland (2022)

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Sadiq’s film Joyland, which made news for winning the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard segment at the Cannes Film Festival, was recently banned by the CBFC.

It claimed that the “film contains highly objectionable material which does not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society and is clearly repugnant to the norms of ’decency and morality; as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979.”

The Pakistani film was initially approved for release.

The federal government declared Joyland “uncertified” and revoked its censor approval based on complaints by people who have not seen the film.

Conversations on social media highlight the desire for diversity and realistic storylines.

However, many Pakistani films which dare to step foot outside of the industry’s set boundaries face bans or become embroiled in controversy.

Ravinder is a Journalism BA graduate. She has a strong passion for all things fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. She also likes to watch films, read books and travel.