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Aamir Khan says he was unsure about censor board passing ‘Sarfarosh’ over mentions of Pak, ISI

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Aamir Khan on 'Sarfarosh'

Aamir Khan on 'Sarfarosh'

Mumbai: Aamir Khan has revealed the team of "Sarfarosh" had concerns about the film getting cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) due to its references to Pakistan and the ISI.

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Khan and his “Sarfarosh” colleagues on Friday night celebrated the 25th anniversary of the cult classic movie, which dealt with cross-border terrorism, with a special screening.

The John Matthew Matthan-directed movie was released in theatres on April 30, 1999, at the time of the Kargil conflict when tensions between India and Pakistan were high.

“In those days, there was a rule that you cannot name the country. We would say ‘neighbouring country’ or ‘friendly country’. So we were taking a risk, and (we didn’t know) whether the Censor board would pass the film or not because we had taken the name of Pakistan and the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). It had never happened before.

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"There was some back and forth happening but our point was that if (LK) Advani ji can say (the name) in the parliament, then why can’t we say it in cinema halls. Fortunately, the film passed with no changes,” Khan said before the screening of the film.

"Sarfarosh" revolved around an honest police officer Ajay Singh Rathod (Khan), who meets and befriends a famous Pakistani ghazal singer, Gulfam Hassan (Naseeruddin Shah). Rathod's life takes a turn when he uncovers a huge conspiracy while investigating arms smuggling in Rajasthan.

Upon its release, the film received wide critical acclaim and commercial success. It also won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.

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Veteran actor Shah recalled the adulation that he received from the audience, especially from people of Pakistan, for playing the role of ghazal singer Hassan.

"I get notifications on Facebook saying, ‘I’m the original Gulfam Hassan’. This film was liked more in Pakistan. I haven’t been there in the last few years but whenever I went there, people always talked about ‘Sarfarosh’. They liked my work, even though I thought they would beat me up (mujhe laga jhoote maaroge),” Shah said.

The veteran said he was gripped by the script "Sarfarosh" after reading it.

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“I felt this is going to be an important film. It is an intelligent thriller. I loved the revelation of the character and the fact that I’ll get to enjoy singing in Jagjit bhai’s (Singh, ghazal singer) voice. I felt the film would succeed,” he added.

Shah, 73, also talked about one of the scenes where his character chops off the ear of a young goat in “Sarfarosh”.

“I had no problem doing that but the censor had a problem. They were like, 'do action but don’t show it.' I don’t understand this hypocrisy. So they actually cut out the shot where I bit the goat. It was a fake one (though). They said keep it out of frame. It was still very effective in terms of story because as a person we think he is refined, aesthetic, but he can do a thing like this. It was a monstrous touch.” Matthew Matthan said he had kept the India-Pakistan terrorism angle of the film a secret from everyone, except for Khan and Shah.

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“Nobody had made a film about India and Pakistan, like what the real problem is. I wanted to keep that secret for survival and we managed. Only Aamir and Naseer were about it. Sonali had understood a bit but nobody else knew it,” the director said.

Sonali Bendre, who played Khan’s love interest in the movie, said she is grateful to the director for offering a role that had more depth and seemed real.

“At that time, I was getting glamorous roles and it was all about body and looks. I’ll always be thankful to John as he saw me in a way which I was in real-life somewhere. Nobody was giving me this kind of role. So, for me to get this role was exciting. It was so me, the realness of it (I liked it),” Bendre added.

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Actor Mukesh Rishi, who played the role of Inspector Saleem Ahmed, said it was Khan who offered him the key character in “Sarfarosh”, while they were filming for the 1995 film “Baazi”.

“Aamir had told me about this story during the climax shoot of ‘Baazi’. That time I was playing the role of a villain. After he told the story, he asked, ‘Will you do it?’ I said, ‘I’ve no reason to say no to the film’.

"Ashutosh Gowariker (director of ‘Baazi’) said, ‘You’ll have to give test’. I was okay with it. John sir had given me a few lines and I did the test and they liked it. ‘Sarfarosh’ is a beautiful part of my career,” Rishi said.

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