Agent Vinod: Another sign of Pak-India tensions?

Published: March 21, 2012

If earlier bans are anything to go by, it’s probably another storm in the teacup. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

This post was originally published on the Wall Street Journal. To read more by Tom Wright, click here. 

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Showing a Pakistani army general watching a courtesan dancing? Using shots of Karachi airport without permission? Or generally portraying Pakistan in a bad light?

Whatever the reasons for Pakistan’s decision to ban Agent Vinod, the latest Khan-Kapoor offering, most of us will have to wait for Friday to see what the fuss is about.

If earlier bans are anything to go by, it’s probably a storm in a teacup, more indicative of the parlous state of India-Pakistan relations than the content of what looks to be a pretty lightweight action flick.

An officer from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate military spy agency said he had no knowledge of the ban, reported widely by Indian media today. He denied there was a military  intelligence presence on Pakistan’s film censorship body, as reported by the Indian media.

Despite mistrust of India, many Pakistanis love Bollywood and billboards across the country feature the big Indian stars. Yet scores of films from India get banned each year, including Dirty Picture (too lewd), Tere Bin Laden (might annoy Islamists) and now Agent Vinod (unclear).

One could guess (admittedly without yet seeing the film) that Agent Vinod likely caricatures Pakistan in some way or other (Ms Kapoor plays a Pakistani in the film).

On the other hand, it’s equally likely that Pakistan’s censor board is too prickly about these things. Tere Bin Laden, an oddball comedy which starred Pakistani singer-turned actor Ali Zafar, was widely praised by critics. The ban in Pakistan looked like kowtowing to extremists.

Criticism of the armed forces is off-limits in Pakistan. Last year, the military itself produced a drama called “Beyond the Call of Duty,” which featured real soldiers and saccharine story lines about Pakistan’s war against the Taliban.

Agent Vinod apparently doesn’t follow that script.

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Will banning Bollywood movies improve Pakistan's film industry?

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Tom Wright

Tom Wright

A WSJ reporter covering South Asia, mainly India, Pakistan and Kashmir. Tom tweets @TomWrightAsia.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Adeel

    Why are Indians so fixated on Pakistanis? Why can’t they just make movies about themselves… why do they have to bring in Pakistan in their films? And why should we allow, or even accept, whatever image they have portrayed of ISI/Pakistan in their film. Obviously, we can’t expect them to be completely unbiased…
    Ban is right. Recommend

  • muhammad shahzad

    When will we stop getting on our knees for the religious fascists? tere binladen was banned so as not to offend osama’s fans in pakistan.
    Now, is Islam in danger due to kareena kapoor?Recommend

  • Hashmi

    Ban all Indian films promoting only vulgarity and lewdness in the name of Aman ki Aasha..Recommend

  • http://www.trendztime.com Stylish Break

    Mostly, sick minded people comments posted. Pakistan reserves the full right to ban any movie from any part of the globe.! Writing hatred comments does’nt serve anything than more hatred.Recommend

  • Saleem Khan

    Open Media and allow all Indian movies Officially in Pakistan. Why to have double standards…one side a voice of Ban and on other side…adopting all of India traditions. Please come out of this double standard because it is only harming our society, not others.Recommend

  • TMohsin

    Indian movies are becoming story-less day by day..all they are doing is copying hollywood movies…and even the quality of songs is also declining pathetically because if we pay attention, they literally have “senseless” lyrics. No poetry, no new story..same old story where a girl is getting married to someone and then she realises in the end that she has fallen in love with her best friend who helped her with her wedding preparations..this same story is repeated in almost every film..and the rest are hollywood remakes.Recommend

  • Muslim

    This film is not definitely not worth the publicity it is receiving. Its good that it has been banned and all other bollywood movies should be banned in Pakistan as well. We should improve the Pakistani film industry and produce movies beyond the childish Gujjar and Jatt movies. We should show the Hero as a practicing muslim praying 5 times a day and the heroine in proper islamic dress (Shalwar Kameez, Duppata, Scarf). We should promote islamic way of life through quality movies that provide family entertainment, free of any lewd or obscene scenes.

    Btw making Kareena a Pakistani shows the inferiority complex of bollywood filmakers, who have proved that they think only Pakistani girls are beautiful and not Indian girls!!Recommend

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    This is it..
    ISPR have to made a movie Agent Zaidu
    starring Zaid Hamid, Hamid Gul, Ali Azmat and Suckeena BiwiRecommend

  • Atif

    @Zaid Hamid,
    Keep yourself to topic and don’t Spam it please.

    @ET
    we already had enough discussion on this topic then why there is a blog entry for this? ET has problem of keep dragging the controvertial issues. Was there any need? Absolutely Not.Recommend

  • Muhammadd

    @Adeel:
    Why dont our terrorists keep blowing and killing people in Pakistan? Why do they have to go and hate india? Why the whole of pakistan is born and bred to hate non muslims? Why do our religion teaches us that jews and christians can not be our friends? Why Why Why?Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    I know this doesn’t validate a ban, but I will say this:

    Bollywood really needs to evolve to appeal to an audience with an IQ higher than 40. Not every plot needs to be ripped off from a Hollywood movie, and every song stolen from the Koreans. Not every movie needs to be centred around looOOoove, and I can think of a few more topics we can discuss.

    Movies like Dirty Picture, Rockstar and 3 Idiots had such amazing potential in terms of initiating a healthy discussion on morality and the deeply flawed social structure, but all flushed down the toilet due to their unending, brain-cell slaughtering fixation with banal, cheesy romantic stories.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    With the government banning everything from BBC to sex-ed sites, I have little reason to believe if there’s a really good reason behind banning this movie as well.

    We like banning stuff because we can. There’s no aspect of a citizen’s life that needs to be left unregulated. From the images that fall upon your retina to what you do in the privacy of your own home, even if it affects nobody else…it’s still (somehow) the hakumat-e-Pakistan’s business.Recommend

  • Critical

    @Adeel:
    There you go!!!Claiming that Indians are obsessed with Pakistan when the vice versa is true…
    The number of movies having anti-pakistani stories can be counted using the fingers..and not all of them were successful in box office collection….
    Indian film industry produces more movies than hollywood..and it is almost 1000 movies per year …
    In fact,there are more movies criticizing various aspects of India and their culture released in a single yr than the total number of anti-pakistani movies ever released….and Indian censor board doesnt ban everyone of themRecommend

  • Agent Vinod

    Its sad to see what pakistans morals have become. We are two faced. Hypocrisy to the core. Go check out your video stores where youngs kids can go and get x rated movies in every corner. Bravo for the marvellous work on banning AV. Recommend

  • Bombay Dude

    @Faraz Talat: Right said dude. But as it was stated in the movie Dirty Picture , that producers just focus on making a quick buck movie by selling the same sleaziness cheesiness and item number loaded movies rather than making sensible ones. I would like to see more movies having calibre of Johny Gaddar, No Smoking, Maqbool, which is slowly and steadily increasing ….I just hope it keeps it;s pace and someday throw out these mindless romantic movies, every such movie brings me close to death by extreme diabetes.Recommend

  • Pollack

    @Zaid Hamid: Hahaha.. Sir Zaid…who is this Suckeena Biwi? Is she a lal masjid girl?Recommend

  • Pollack

    I haven’t seen the movie yet. I wonder if the Hindu character hero played by a Muslim will convert(revert?) the Muslim character played by a Hindu girl at the end of the movie? That will surely put this movie on a different plane. Haha.Recommend

  • Pollack

    @Adeel: it’s crystal clear that you are a very unbiased person. I am sure that you think that Moosa Khan is a very unbiased factual movie too. I wish I could be like you.Recommend

  • http://www.indrajal.com Vishnu Dutta

    Any honest pakistani tell me if lollywood makes movies which shows india and or hinduism in very bad light.

    ban it all you want, but u cannot call it a bad thing when you do it more then indians.Recommend

  • Ravish

    @ Muslim: “Btw making Kareena a Pakistani shows the inferiority complex of bollywood filmakers, who have proved that they think only Pakistani girls are beautiful and not Indian girls!!”

    So by your anology, by making Saif an Indian prove that only Indian males are handsome, and not Pakistani males? Get real dude, you are just making a fool of yourself.Recommend

  • sadia yasmine

    Even if such movies are not banned , Pakistani viewers should discourage such movies which are used as weapon against pakistan.we should have sense that why should our cinemas increase the indian trade by buying a movie which is against us.
    and yes, pakistan should develop its own film industry, and should try to promote their culture, and bring reforms in country. virsa and bol were two good movies, and there should be many more movies like this or better than this. Pakistani heroins should wear very beautiful islamic long dresses,cuz i’ve seen many stylish dresses which are islamic as well and look very beautiful. Muslims should promote namaz in their movies, if pakistanis and indians can watch a movie ful of om jay jagdish harray, then y are muslims a prey of inferiority complex, everyone would love to watch an islamic culture,as whole world is interested in getting knowledge about islamic culture although they are against islam.Recommend

  • Baqar

    @Vishnu Dutta:
    Please give me one example to prove your claim. We got better subjects to make films and dramas rather than india.
    I totally agree with censorship…liberal and progressive thoughts at one side, freedom of speech on the other but above all “SUB SE PEHLE PAKISTAN”.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Bans on Art should be done away with.

    I am opposed to bans on Art in India, as well as Pakistan.

    Art should never be banned according to me. Taking offence is very subjective. One man’s offensive work is another man’s art.

    I abhor India banning Satanic Verses, as well as Pakistan banning movies.

    Let the masses see it and then decide. The decision should be left to them.Recommend

  • ksri

    Islamabad keeps banning movies from its eternal enemy on one pretext or another. When a person goes crazy, psychiatrist can offer help. But what can be done if the nation gets schizo?Recommend

  • Baqar

    @ksri:
    Nation is perfectly fine… i think Indians should go and mind their own business… there is a lot to say but i guess ET is a paper that exercise moderation controls on Pakistani comments.

    I think Pakistanis should make a movie on on Ajmal Qasab(as a hero)… how would the indians react? will they take it as a piece of art?

    P.S. I am a hardcore liberal but before that I am PakistaniRecommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    @Faraz Talat:

    Bollywood really needs to evolve to appeal to an audience with an IQ higher than 40. Not >every plot needs to be ripped off from a Hollywood movie, and every song stolen from the >Koreans. Not every movie needs to be centred around looOOoove, and I can think of a few >more topics we can discuss.

    I fully agree with you. Has been more than a decade since I went to a Hindi movie. Sometimes, the plots are so badly ripped off hollywood movies that the hindi movie too takes place in US itself. And god knows 30% of conversations are in english and they remain unchanged from the original movie inspiration.

    But, movies like fashion, dirty picture, omkara, khosla ka ghosla, johnny gaddar etc. show that there is still some hope.Recommend

  • Sane

    Why Indian movies?!! Which are full of vulgarity & obscenity. Despite being the biggest film industry they could not success in getting an Oscar, While Pakistan does. They hardly leave any chance to promote hatred against Pakistan. Their TV Dramas totally baseless and having no rational substance. All actors in their dramas are gorgeous, extravagant and gowdy in dresses and jewellery. Vulgar dancing & items songs make their movies a success.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Muhammad Shahzad
    Islam is not in danger at all due to Kareena Kapoor. But, young people in this country are in danger due to her*&))%$#.Recommend

  • Sane

    Movie starring Ajmal Qassab as hero and Narindra Mody (Gujrat Fame) as side hero is good idea for a blockbuster.Recommend

  • JE

    ‘From Paris with love’ tooRecommend

  • Muslim

    @Ravish

    Saif Handsome? are you serious? Probably by Indian standards, but by Pakistani standards Saif is a below average dude, looks wise!Recommend

  • suhail

    whatever be the film it should reflect reality rather than showing one indian beating whole pakustanis army n those who watch such films fool themselvesRecommend

  • SaadH

    Has anyone even seen or read what saif has said about all this? We really need to stop jumping to conclusions!

    Even if you look at hollywood, they do it all the time, but their movies dont get banned anywhere. Look at avatar, that movie showed the US army in a really bad light, but was it banned? No!

    And just because the movie’s been banned doesnt mean no one’s gonna watch it, i dunno when the govt’s gonna stopp kidding itselfRecommend

  • G.A.

    @Muhammadd:
    Are u really a Pakistani Muslim, not even knowing the answers to all these questions?Recommend

  • R.V.S.Sharma

    @TMohsin:
    You are right. Pakistan has good script writers and actors. Why watch this Mumbai trash ?
    You can safely dump Bollywood films for better art. But try to gain access to good films from India and make good films on Pakistan , without religious bias. We accept that Pakistanis are brilliant and have good taste if only their eyes do not get misty when they think about religion. Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    @muhammad shahzad:
    Tere Bin Laden was an insult to Pakistanis. You probably know more about it than me, I got sick of it after about 20 minutes and the apparent attacks on Pakistan, so I don’t know what happened next.
    Also, Kareena Kapoor makes me want to vomit, so I’m glad one of her films is banned.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    @ksri:
    We ban their movies.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    @Anoop:
    You have poor concept,and idea about what constitute art,Bollywood film should be on low todem pole when you consider art in any form.Some one has rightly said,these so called movie are made,with IQ as 40 or lower.Any body who has any self respect for once mind,he should not even go any where near them,but then I’m minority and I do not count.good dayRecommend

  • a 54321

    @Muhammadd:

    LOL. JUST LOL.listen bro you clearly dont have an understanding of islam.
    – terrorism and suicide bombings: confused, mislead people.
    – being anti india: people tend to confuse pakistani nationalism and pridewith hate of india.
    – no. but it’s become a habit.
    -NO, OUR RELIGION DOESNT TEACH US THAT! the prophet himself, his wive was jewish until she converted. many jews lived in madinah peacefully witht he muslims until they broke several treaties and CHOSE to instigate war fromm 3 choices the prophet gave. islam is right. people just followit wrong.Recommend

  • sadia yasmine

    @anoop don’t you think that all the masses watching movies are not of mature mind?? our young generation is already under spell of holi, songs, dance, om jay jagdish and you want censors to let it go…. these things dont show the results abruptly but they have fatal effects later on…. just go to the past and recall the time when you heard first bomb blast in pakistan…. m sure you would be much scared at that time, but now when you are mentally prepared for such things then you don’t get scared that much, m not saying not at all but not that much….. now same case here if today india is saying something wrong about pakistan and censors let it go then today pakistanis would offend it but later on youth will get used to it…. used to what…… to hear propaganda against pak, to hear abuses for pak, to see people spoling repute of pak and at last the extreme thing to see pakistan occupied by someone…. so stop behaving like this because we have to save our youth’s thoughts. Recommend

  • geeko

    @Ravish:
    lol @ Saif ‘handsome’.

    By the way, wonder how many % of Indian males are represented by a half-’Pathan’ :o)Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @hariharmani:

    Who gets to decide what is Art? You? me?

    An artist is an artist. It doesn’t matter if you dont like, say, some particular kind of music. Just because you have a low opinion about that music doesn’t make it not-art. There are people who consider it art.

    Actually, its really surprising for me to hear you say that. Your comments are very sound most of the time, or I am mistaken.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @sadia yasmine:

    So you are saying Holi, songs and dance will make people blow up in Pakistan and induce them into extremism?

    If so why doesn’t that happen in India? Only if you let people be more Indian, which they were before Pakistan was born and brainwashing began(You are a terrific example), they will be less reluctant to join the Muslim cause.

    Tell me one free Country in this World where truth is not spoken about Pakistan. Every Country knows about Pakistan.Recommend

  • Scr

    What is wrong with you? why cant the hero be a shia who prays 3 times a day? Or why cnat the heroine be a REAL muslim who knows scarfs arent part of islam or pakistanRecommend

  • http://tradersutra.com hariharmani

    @Anoop: I’m not certain if you understood,why I said what Bollywood dishes out is ,or can be considered art.Even Picaso’s art is subjective,if we take that line,most things are subjective,every thing in this universe can be reduced to argument,counter point,they often say,there is no Absolute Truth,it is also open to interpretation.Many critic of moviedom,consider Bollywood,devoid of any value,other than reppitative,theme,often lifted from other sources,very little creativity,if you in your wisdom think it is piece of profound art,you are free to do so,I’m always thoughtful,as I do not concern myself with petty things,life is sometime too short,in my case it is not so,I happen to agree with Greek seers who believed,life should not be prolonged,old must make way for new,in USA,the idea is against that,they go to extreme to keep people alive,our taxes as much as 35% of our revenue, go keeping health and other needs of elderly.Do I agree,yes and no,why?Answer,We live in working democracy,which most of the time work,and often make right sensible decision,some time errs,so we have to take good with bad,same way Bollywood,once in blue moon does make some thing good,but it is far and in between,music was, it seems very good in past,but now?It is again time,taste and change in society,all I’m going to tell you,art or real art is very subjective,i have been to Sistine chapel,and seen Micheal Angelow,Marlon Brando,and than Salman,Go figure,both are art,which one you like depends?Recommend

  • rana

    Bollywood make movies involving pakistan to portray pakistan’s image as phoney, feckless and sex addict country and we, being or atleast trying to be broad minded, just gulp everything on the name of enternainment and enlightenment. Aah! How beautifully world has made us agnise that how much hate we have for our motherland; comments of enlighten and BROAD MINDED people are proof. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    hariharmani

    Are you against all movies made in India, or only against Bollywood movies? If it is not too personal, do you visit Sistine Chapel everyday?

    Sadia Yasmine

    Great arguments. Holi, Jay Jagdeesh Hurray, and namaste will corrupt Pakistan morally and ultimately destroy it politically. Recommend

  • BRUISED INDIAN

    Just got in from the theatre… WHAT A MINDBLOWING MOVIE! The movie doesnt lose its pace at all and simply put – could be the blockbuster of the year!

    Trust me, Bollywood buffs in Pakistan would be missing half the fun watching it on pirated DVD’s. This is Theatre Material. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Bruised Indian, whatever. Moosa Khan on DVD is better than AV in 3D Theatres!! And Shaan is taller and whiter than Saif!Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @kaalchakra:
    Not really,I ‘m very disappointed with Bollywood lack of creativity and their total lack of ethic in lifting copy Right subject,as a rule I do not see any Indian movie,unless some solid citizen,whose judgement I can trust,I’m sometime inclined to watch some Malyalam movie,they are more realistic,but not that often,I like P.C. and Google,it is more fun.I have been to Sistine Chapal twice in last 25 years,I plan to go next year again to europe,hope I’m able to swing to Rome,I always dreamed of visiting Pakistan,hope some day I’m able to do that.You see we do not need to have identical view,we must always be civil and respectful.Nature never intended us to be one kind.Unity in diversity,is not a bad thing.Recommend

  • manish rohera

    @Sane:
    its hypocrisy you know A R Rahman has so much to his accolades but was given an oscar for a below-average jai ho and they will always give oscars on povery and other problem related movies but has a movie like rang de basanti showing the likes of bhagat singh, sukhdev,rajguru in eyes of todays india given an oscar(no) they will give an oscar for a lip-cleft or an acid throwing but have they given an oscar for documentaries related to polio vaccination oscar shows the prejudice of foreign thinkers to our society and their prejudice towards us Recommend

  • s

    its good this movie is banned and all other bollywood movies and channels should be banned too!! Indians please go comment on your own news paper (no rudeness intended). You are only spreading hatred!Recommend

  • The Real Reason of Banning

    Extremely stupid movie actually its a conspiracy theory one. The plot ends with the some j/g/geo/jew group wanting war between India and Pakistan, its good that Pakistanis don’t watch it they are already bugged by such theories an Indian movie doing that would be like..huh even some Indians have finally awakened..Recommend