Sarmad Khoosat: WhatsApp sale of ‘Zindagi Tamasha’ for Rs300 was unacceptable

LAHORE: In a candid interview with BBC Urdu, acclaimed filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat recently discussed his latest project Zindagi Tamasha, its censorship and subsequent digital release.

During the interview, Khoosat openly talked about the challenges the movie went through, from censorship to the online premiere.

Reflecting on the arduous path that involved multiple hurdles and setbacks of censorship decisions, Sarmad revealed, “The journey was difficult and riddled with challenges. Censor certificates were revoked, reviews were demanded, and even the movie’s YouTube release faced unexpected incidents, prompting us to couple it with a fundraiser. Subsequently, the movie surfaced online via torrents, YouTube, and WhatsApp groups, shared among viewers.”

He added, “The breaking point for me was receiving a WhatsApp message offering Zindagi Tamasha for Rs300. This was unacceptable. Regardless of monetary considerations, my movie was being disseminated without my consent, whether through WhatsApp groups or announcements on Facebook groups, planning unauthorised screenings.”

Read More: Zindagi Tamasha finally gets a release date

Furthermore, speaking about the movie being judged by the audiences in a pre-release video, Sarmad commented, “The power of truth prevailed. Initially, there was a misconception that the movie was against specific individuals. A comment from a bearded individual revealed a change of heart after contemplating whether the movie was truly worth reporting. It was heartwarming.”

He continued, “People shared screenshots of their experiences, highlighting their willingness to pay for the movie. The support and sincerity from viewers were overwhelming. Even those who criticised the movie in the comments, once enabled, refrained from abusive language.”

Meanwhile, he spoke about the censorship and the ordeal he had to go through for years, Khoosat said  that initially, Punjab’s screening had classified it as ‘adult’ for viewers aged 18 and above without any cuts. He mentioned that Federal authorities had reviewed it, and as far as he knew, it had received an acceptable rating. He added that there were no scenes deleted, and no objections raised about visuals.

Khoosat also mentioned that some scenes with explicit language were requested to be censored. However, he stressed that there had never been an outright ban, and he requested that if there was a ban, it should be provided in writing.

Addressing the paradox of his movie being banned while receiving a Sitara-e-Imtiaz award, Sarmad humorously remarked, “I’m unsure. I see many talented individuals who haven’t received such recognition. Manto Sahab was acknowledged post-2010, so where do we stand? I can’t say. It was a surprise. Some friends suggested I decline the honour, but I won’t. I won’t thank anyone else in my acknowledgment, only my country.”

Regarding his future projects and whether his approach would change, Khoosat admitted, “I’ve contemplated omitting certain lines from the trailer. These lines are sparse in the movie, but when condensed in the trailer, they created misconceptions about the movie’s tone and message. I might consider a different approach.”

The Manto actor added by saying that initially, he had experienced confusion, stress, and fear throughout this journey but was inspired by their surroundings, highlighting familiar scenarios and human experiences. He expressed his belief that mainstream cinema should incorporate more realism and relatability.

Sarmad shared a poignant message he received, illustrating the impact of his work, saying, “A viewer messaged me, saying their mother, who had never watched my movies, liked my drama. When they informed her about Zindagi Tamasha, her message in Punjabi read, ‘I am a common woman, but tell Sarmad, I am with him.’ I’m unsure if I deserve such support, but it’s a testament to the power of art.”

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