Akshay Kumar’s espionage thriller Baby, which centres round an Indian spy’s mission to capture a terrorist from a West Asian nation, has been banned in Pakistan for its "negative" portrayal of Muslims.
A representative of the film's Pakistani distributor, Everready Pictures, was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying that the movie had been banned by the censor boards of Islamabad and Sindh province – two of the biggest markets for Bollywood films.
"Censor boards in Islamabad and Karachi have decided to ban the film because it portrays a negative image of Muslims and the negative characters in the film also have Muslim names," the representative said.
Fakhr-e-Alam, chairman of the censor board in Sindh, said in a post on Twitter: "Just censored the film BABY. A poor propoganda (sic) film basically saying all muslims r terrorists & Pakistan harbors them. Disappointed. BANNED it."
However, the director of the film, Neeraj Pandey, had recently told HT that Baby was not "anti-Pakistan". "In fact, it has three Pakistani actors who play very important roles. See, some elements in Pakistan can be wrong but a whole nation cannot be wrong. Terrorism has no religion, and we believe that religion and country are two different things," Pandey said.
Everready Pictures said DVDs of Baby too had been banned and the company would not go ahead with its release.
Besides Bollywood heavyweights Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher, Baby stars well-known Pakistani actors Mikaal Zulfiqar and Rasheed Naz, who portrayed a villainous cleric in director Shoaib Mansoor's hit Khuda Ke Liye.
Baby was set to be released in Pakistan on January 23 but cinemas in the financial hub of Karachi removed it from their websites, leading to speculation that it would not be screened.
Pakistan’s censors have banned other Bollywood movies that depicted the country as a safe haven for terrorists or showed the ISI spy agency in a poor light. Among the films recently banned by Pakistan are Haider, which focussed on the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, which featured Katrina Kaif as an ISI agent, and Agent Vinod, which had Saif Ali Khan as an Indian spy taking on ISI operatives.