No Film Can Please 220 Million People; Here’s Why Halting Joyland’s Release Is Anything But Regressive


The release of much-anticipated film Joyland directed by Saim Sadiq has been banned a week before its release. Joyland is facing a major setback as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting canceled its exhibition license issued months ago. Joyland tells the story of Haider (Ali Junejo), the youngest son of the Ranas family, who, while working as a background dancer, falls in love with Biba (Alina Khan), a transgender woman.

What Is The Dispute About? 

The government of Pakistan faced pressure from hardline Islamic groups who called its depiction of a love affair between a man and a trans woman “repugnant” and “highly objectionable”. Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed tweeted a letter initiated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcast that deemed the previously certified film ‘uncertified’.

What does the Censor Board Say?

According to close sources with the Sindh Censor Board, some members were initially skeptical about the content of the film and were not fully sure how the audiences will respond to a love story between a man and a trans person. “Yes, it has been passed and certified with edits that have been conveyed to the producers and we are not sure of any other development so far,” the source told Express Tribune. A Punjab censor board official also confirmed the same. “We are not aware of any letter issued by the government. From our end, the film has been certified and ready for release,” said the official while requesting anonymity.

PM Shehbaz Sharif Forms A Special Committee

Under pressure, the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday constituted an eight-member committee to “deliberate on complaints” against the movie. They comprised of minister for political affairs and economic affairs and law and justice chairperson, minister for information and broadcasting, minister for communications, minister for board of investment, minister for information technology and telecommunications, adviser to the PM on Gilgit-Baltistan, PTA chairman and PEMRA chairman.

The Star Cast Is Dismayed

The team of Joyland, including Sarwat Gilani, Sania Saeed, Alina Khan, Rasti Farooq and Abdullah Siddiqui took to social media and shared a note regarding the apparent ban on their film. Gilani who is one of the prominent stars of Joyland feels that there’s a paid smear campaign doing rounds against Joyland. “A film that made history for Pakistani cinema got passed by all censor boards but now authorities are caving in to pressure from some malicious people who have not even seen the film.” She wrote

Actor Sania Saeed, who also stars in Joyland, told Taimur Rahman, a political activist and musician, “If it [Joyland] doesn’t release in Pakistan, there are going to be some difficulties for the Oscars submission. But what’s even more upsetting is that the entire world appreciated a Pakistani film, our film, story and people and Pakistan won’t be able to see the film, that’s sad.”

Celebrity Support

Several other artists such as Osman Khalid Butt, Tooba Siddiqui expressed disappointment over the call for Joyland to be boycotted.

Osman Khalid Butt

Tooba Siddiqui


Mira Sethi

The Paristan actor called out Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb directly in her tweet.

Sanam Saeed

There is no reason not to release Joyland

Final Word

Art and culture help communities across the world to connect. Cinema, in particular, helps break barriers. But it seems to be the opposite in Pakistan. Banning a film that won big at various international forums comes across as highly regressive. No film can please everyone and those who do not like can choose not to watch it.

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