Mumbai, 28 June-2014, Indian Express: While actor Saif Ali Khan had three look-alikes in the…
Saif Ali Khan’s upcoming film Phantom has faced a ban in Pakistan. But this isn’t the first time for the actor. Previously, too, his Agent Vinod was caught in a similar situation and was banned there eventually. But what surprises Saif is that the country has accepted a petition filed by Hafeez Saeed, a terrorist with a $50 million bounty on his head. That’s what Saif told us after Saeed filed a petition seeking a ban on the film in Pakistan. Now, Saif opens up about the ban, how it might affect the film and explains how much is at stake for him as an actor. Over to Saif.
You had said you had faith in the Pakistan Censor Board. Does the Phantom ban surprise you?
I don’t have faith in Pakistan, generally. Neither do I understand what their thought processes are. I have no problems against Pakistan and I won’t make a film that’s against the country. But now they have banned the film. We have always shared a very complicated relationship. If you tell uncomfortable truths, films gets banned. We keep banning each other’s films.
Do you think it will affect the film in any way?
Well, I mean, we might have made a little bit more money. I remember Race made some money, so there is a market there. The irony is that everybody is going to watch it anyway on pirated DVDs. That’s what happens a lot in Pakistan.
But it has happened with many of your other films…
If you try making a film which portrays a certain element of truth, something that makes Pakistan a little bit uncomfortable, they will ban it. They did that with many of my films, so I have faced it already. But that doesn’t necessarily dictate what kind of movies we should make.
Pakistan bans a film because of a petition filed by a terrorist. Does that not sound weird?
They are not admitting that he is a terrorist. He is not admitting he is a terrorist. So I mean I actually believe in an individual’s rights, but if a country is backing them up, then it’s great. I am told he is responsible for 26/11. What the proof is, I don’t know for sure. I don’t think any of us know for sure. I am told by everybody that the US has put a 50 million-dollar bounty on his head and he’s a wanted terrorist. The latest terrorist caught in India said that Hafeez Saeed sent him. I believe he is India’s enemy number one. I believe he says and does dreadful things in India. As far as I’m concerned, the villain of the film is the guy who organized the 26/11 attacks. That guy’s name can be whatever you want. It can be Mr. X. To me it’s not about defaming the real Hafeez Saeed. It’s just saying that somebody masterminded this and in our film, like the book, the character is called Haris Saeed. I feel he’s entitled to his opinions even though he is our enemy.
Do you think extremist opinions exist among Indians too, especially when they talk about Muslims and Pakistan?
I am sure, there must be areas. I think the world has sections of people who are extremists. There must be people who say Pakistan is the villain or someone who says some other religion is bad. But I think the majority of the population is peace-loving, be it in India or Pakistan. The enormous success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan shows that most people would like a Utopian situation.
The film has been delayed a bit. Do you think such delays generate negative publicity, which ends up affecting box-office collections, like it did in the case of Bombay Velvet?
That could happen, but I don’t think that has happened with Phantom. I think the release date is perfect. We have the Rakhi weekend. And it’s releasing after Bajrangi Bhaijaan. All these are positives for the film. Generally, a delay is definitely not a good idea.