A local film about a boy emulating the fairytale career of cricket star Shahid Afridi hit cinemas Friday despite objections from the player over “obscene” scenes he fears could damage his image.
The $1 million Pakistan-made movie Main Hoon Shahid Afridi (I Am Shahid Afridi) tells the story of a young man who dreams of becoming as great a player as Afridi, and the trials he faces as he tries to follow in his hero’s footsteps.
The big-hitting all-rounder had given his blessing to the producers, but last week reacted angrily to an “obscene” scene shown in trailers for the film in which the hero hugs and kisses a girl in a nightclub.
He also raised objections to an “item song,” a musical performance featuring Pakistani actress Mathira Khan. Dance numbers such as this with scantily clad women are often used in Indian cinema and have little to do with the story.
“I had given permission for the film with an aim to give kids some positive healthy entertainment, to divert their minds toward cricket and it should not have obscene things,” said Afridi, 33. But the filmmakers went ahead with the release without removing the scenes.
“The item song was the demand and if Afridi had any objections, it’s his mindset,” Mathira told reporters at a private premier of the film on Wednesday night.
Cinemagoers had mixed reaction to the movie.
“I don’t see any obscenity in the film,” said 27-year-old shopkeeper Liaqat Khan. “If we can watch Indian movies in our cinemas which are full of objectionable scenes, why can’t we watch this film.”
But middle-aged housewife Samina Ali said she was embarrassed after watching the movie. “I came here on the insistence of my kids who are diehard fans of Afridi, but this film cannot be watched with kids,” she said.
Afridi, who hails from Pakistan’s deeply conservative tribal district of Khyber on the Afghan border, has so far played 27 Tests, 354 one-days and 59 Twenty20 matches for Pakistan. He became an instant hero when he hit a 37-ball century in only his second one-day against Sri Lanka in 1996—still a world record. Afridi also holds the record for hitting the most sixes in one-day international cricket, with 308 in 354 matches.
Pakistan’s film industry has been on the skids for years, unable to compete with India’s Bollywood. But filmmakers are hoping the phenomenal popularity of one of the country’s best-loved cricketers will translate into takings at the box office.