Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, director of upcoming film Zindagi Tamasha that was originally scheduled to release on January 24, 2020, recently penned a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking if he should release the film despite threats. He also posted the letter on social media asking, “Getting dozens of threatening phone calls and messages. Should I withdraw Zindagi Tamasha?”
In the four-page letter, Sarmad states that he did not make the film to offend anyone; it is an empathetic and heartfelt story told through a humane eye. He went on to express that while a dear friend of his thinks it is not a big deal to withdraw, the film took two years of his life and all the money he had saved in his entire career.
Sarmad furthered that he doesn’t want anyone getting the pleasure of “banning my film because legally, officially and morally, no one can.”
He also mentions that the film was cleared by all three censor boards, twice by the CBFC against some ‘complaints’, and the only censor cuts on the original version were some slang and colloquial words expressing anger.
“It never had any other ‘objectionable’ content,” he noted, adding towards the end, “Shall I release my film under these conditions? I think I must not.”
After he posted the letter, many people from the entertainment industry raised their voice to show solidarity with him.
Mahira Khan tweeted, “Time and again we are made to realise our power and our influence; a film (that people haven’t seen) can make some this scared.”
Humayun Saeed also took to Twitter and posted, “The government must address this at the earliest. Filmmaking in Pakistan is already a tough challenge; those who dare to venture into it need to be encouraged and appreciated.”
Others who were among the first few to speak up include Sanam Saeed and Mira Sethi.
Saqib Malik, who made his film debut with Baaji last year, also supported Sarmad and asked him to release the film. He said, “Zindagi Tamasha is such an important film not only for our cinema but also for where we stand as a nation today. Sarmad, have the strength of your convictions and release the film. You know your intentions are pure. May God be with you!”
Standing by Sarmad, industry veteran Atiqa Odho stated, “Creative Arts will never become hostage to bullies; I stand by my friend Sarmad Khoosat in his hour of difficulty. He is an honest and hard working Pakistani who’s never worked against the state. We need to be patient and let his film screen as a reflection on our important social issues. Let us not muzzle truths in a young democracy and grow stronger by recognizing our weaknesses.”
Filmmaker-producer Rafay Rashdi also asserted that he stands with Sarmad Sultan, “The man who has given us countless hits, all for the positive image of the industry - deserves better than this,” he posted on social media, adding, “I stand with the sanity that should prevail on all forms of media expression. Live and let live - or start living under a rock. Where is the progressiveness? Where is the noise? Can our social media influencers also take charge? Where are our stalwarts, who are first at ‘cancel culture’? Why can’t we cancel the troublemakers? The cinema industry is in the pits, and trends like these will mark the final nail in the coffin. This is for the upcoming generation of filmmakers as well!”
Roshaneh Zafar, who is at the helm of affairs at Kashf Foundation and worked in collaboration with Sarmad Khoosat on miniseries Aakhri Station (2018), also spoke on the matter.
“Art and culture are a means for us to better understand the society we live in,” she tweeted. “Sarmad Khoosat is one of Pakistan’s most talented and respected directors, who have the courage to question social norms. Without such critique we can never build a better world.”
While we are not sure if Zindagi Tamasha will release or not, one thing is certain, Sarmad Khoosat doesn’t want to give a right to anyone to ban the film and hence, he might pull it out himself. He has convictions but nothing matters more than life itself and given the egregious threats the filmmaker is facing, it remains to be seen if we will get to see Zindagi Tamasha in local cinemas. Zindagi Tamasha has reportedly been stopped from screening in Punjab until further notification. This is a developing story...