Pakistani Court Bans Bollywood Title 'Phantom'

UTV Motion Pictures

The upcoming release is set in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which India alleged were planned by Pakistan.

A Pakistani court has banned Bollywood title Phantom for release in the country ahead of the film's worldwide opening on August 28.

The title is from Disney India's UTV Motion Pictures banner. Directed by Kabir Khan, the film stars actor Saif Ali Khan and actress Katrina Kaif. Phantom is set in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. The film is based on author Hussain Zaidi's novel Mumbai Avengers.

According to The Associated Press, the court ruling comes two weeks after Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani with a $10 million bounty on his head over his alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks, filed a motion asking that the film be banned.

Phantom's trailer suggests a storyline revolving around an Indian covert mission to assassinate Saeed. Local media reports indicated that in his plea Saeed said the film contained “filthy propaganda” against him.

While Indian films have been releasing in Pakistan in recent years, this is not the first time that a title has been banned owing to its sensitive content.

In 2012, Agent Vinod – also starring Saif Ali Khan – was banned because authorities reportedly didn't approve of the film's plot which showed Pakistan supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and hatching a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in India's capital, Delhi. Earlier, 2010's comedy hit Tere Bin Laden (Without You, Bin Laden), which spoofed the search for Osama bin Laden, was also banned.

Following the end of British rule in 1947, Pakistan was carved out of India as a separate state. The edgy neighbors have fought three major wars since then. Given the tense relations, Indian films were banned in Pakistan since 1965 but Bollywood has enjoyed massive popularity, especially via pirated home videos since the eighties. The ban was finally lifted in 2008 allowing a trickle of Bollywood releases which have been well received.

In July, Bollywood hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan – also from Phantom director Kabir Khan – opened to strong box office in Pakistan. The film showed top actor Salman Khan as a devout Hindu who helps reunite a six-year-old Pakistani girl with her family after she accidentally crosses the border to India.

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