Pakistan submitted the film Zindagi tamasha (which means “Life Cycle”) to the Oscars. However, most Pakistanis cannot see the film from their own country.
With 2 hours and 15 minutes, Zindagi tamasha it is located in the old neighborhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, where prostitutes, devout families, drug dealers and men who struggle to live live side by side.
The film tells the fictional story of a devoted middle-aged estate agent and artist, Rahat Khwaja, whose life turns upside down after a wedding guest filmed him dancing sensually to an old Pakistani song, “Zindagi Tamasha”, as he sings it to the audience.
The video becomes vital and Khwaja, who is respected in his populous neighborhood for singing Islamic poems, is suddenly considered vulgar by his community.
Religious events where he starred are out of bounds and the man finds his face in bad taste images on the Internet. Children who once loved him for the sweets he distributed called him a “pig,” a clergyman threatens to accuse him of blasphemy – which could be a deadly accusation in Pakistan – and his beloved daughter turns against him.
According to NPR, the film was prohibited in Pakistan after an extremist religious group watched the trailer and was furious at the representation of the clergyman in the film. In addition to raising accusations of blasphemy, the cleric is painted as an arrogant man who turns a blind eye to child sexual abuse at his seminar.
“Who are you to speak out against scholars?” Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the then leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik in a demonstration in February against the film, which brought together thousands of angry protesters. “The prophet did not delegate faith to you!” he said, referring to the film’s director, Sarmad Khoosat.
Like the protagonist of Zindagi Tamasha, Khoosat faced a whirlwind of hatred. “It was added to WhatsApp groups where mysterious people sent me messages with horrible images of beheaded people,” he said. “On social media, Twitter was on fire with ‘banning Zindagi Tamasha’ and ‘killing this bastard'”.
After the protest, the government of Pakistan postponed the debut Zindagi Tamasha and asked the country’s Islamic advisory body to conduct a “critical review”archiving the film.
This situation reflects a decades-long trend by the Pakistani authorities towards appease the religious right, according to Raza Rumi, director ofo Park Center for Independent Media. “This is a trend that has existed for a long time and has grown over the decades, with increasing pressure from lobbies religious. The whole government tries to appease them, because it is a risk to irritate them. ”
Critics argue that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s current government coalition seems even more accommodating than previous governments.
Zindagi Tamasha is one of several things that were banned or prevented from circulating in the past year. Other examples include books, social networks, television programs and video games.
It is feared that the country is returning to its darkest days under the command of the dictator general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who tried to reshape Pakistan to its harsh image after taking power in the late 1970s. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq prevented films from being shown and stifled the local film industry.
Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988 in a plane crash and the industry took years to recover. It was only in 2013 that Pakistan submitted a film for consideration to the Oscars: Zinda bhaag, who followed the path of three young people who went to Europe to start a new life.
The committee responsible for choosing the entry submitted a film for consideration every year since then. A committee member, Hamza Bangash, said that Zindagi tamasha was selected in November because “ends up with a lot of hypocrisy in our society ”, he says. “Do it with humor and it’s so kind.”
This Wednesday, the Academy of Motion Pictures announced that Zindagi tamasha missed the Oscars 2021 race.
Maria Campos, ZAP //