So I had a couple of minutes on me during office hours and I decided to re-watch the Gala ad. I wanted to comprehend what provoked the regulatory authority to suddenly ban an ad from national TV. I couldn’t find one clue of it. Before I continue, you should know how horrendous I feel the ad is and how sad I feel for the money drained down to produce a theatrical performance to sell “DES KA BISCUIT”. A line which itself is enough to open up a thousand creative avenues that make it the Des Ka Biscuit.

Well, so I re-watched the ad again thinking that I must have missed out on something provocative because surely we have seen our very own Tamgha-e-Imtiaz dance in rather fewer clothes- definitely around more men than there were in the entire duration of the film.

This time I did notice something that might have gone through the sinless glance of the devout men sitting at PEMRA and they might have jumped out of their seats and offered two rakaat nafl as a recompense to the great sin that was committed.

Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan ki izzat, lifted by two balochi men, UH OH- BAN IT”.

While this totally might be the scenario that can be expected of the goons sitting at PEMRA, my conscience still fails to accept it as the sole reason why a biscuit ad will 9become such target of public hate and the censor board. The answer is deep rooted in our minds and in the visuals which stimulated that portion of it.

Before I get to that, I want to recall an ad that I worked on 2 years back. Reema jee was specially called from America- this time to sell a bucket of new weather shield orange paint produced by a local company. Paint was the last thing I expected to be sold using the aid of a celebrity dancing around the house just to convince her husband that it’s not worth the money. Well, the ad was subject to a few hate comments but I am sure, it pleased the middle-aged men at PEMRA because of course, Reema jee- the star of their times, danced for her husband in the ad and not NA-MEHRAM men, Taubah Astaghfar.

When this topic rose in an office meeting, my colleague called it a Tarang ad selling Gala Biscuit. While no one can deny that statement, it did push me to open Tarang ads on YouTube and see why they haven’t been a target of the regulatory authority. I really couldn’t find a reason. Same theatrical performances and women dancing to the beat of the music to sell a tea whitener.

There’s one thing that did catch my attention- THE DUPATTA. From Saba Qamar, to Sajal Aly, to Saima Jee- all of them shook their booties but with their Dupatta’s on. I guess their dupattas were enough to blindfold Team PEMRA or let’s just say enjoy the HALAL ‘MUJRA’.

The word ‘Mujra’ which is creating rounds on social media these days brings me back to the point why Tarang was Halal Mujra and Gala turned out to be the Haram one. If you think I feel it’s the Dupatta, well that was comical but worth pondering upon. What is it that suddenly provoked all Pakistanis and specifically the regulatory authority to deem a simple ad as provocative and immoral? The truth is that I don’t have a legitimate answer to it.

However, when I saw Balochi and Pashto men lifting a woman and she dancing around them, it reminded me of the sad dark culture that still exists in the deepths of these regions. It subconsciously stimulated the sad truth of Mujra that still happens in feudal regions where women are treated as objects and subject to rape.

No matter 50 other women were dancing alongside the protagonist, our minds dwelled on the men dressed in traditional attires, and in that specific moment, the intention of the brand and the agency to visually portray people of the ‘DES’ was all turned to dust, blown into the eyes of everyone who watched it, meddling with their brains and forcing PEMRA to ban the ad.

I noticed that the decision was fairly welcomed on social media and the widely accepted opinion was of the fact that it should not be aired- or at least not the 1 minute and 37 seconds of torture it is. But the sad truth is that by accepting this, we are also accepting the ban culture that is rising every day.

It won’t be all fun and laughs when your freedom of expression in this country will be reduced to mere specks of dust and all art-related industries will struggle to produce content that you wish to see.

Asfand Yar Kohati.

This article is found on the Facebook timeline of the Writer.

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