Bollywood film Phantom is certainly one of the most controversial film released in recent years. Not just in terms of its content but also in the way it has managed to stir debate on both sides of the border during the course of its promotions.
The film was banned by Lahore High Court (LHC) following a petition filed by JuD Chief Hafiz Saeed who claimed the screening of the film in Pakistan could put his life at risk. From what was gathered through its trailer, the storyline seemed to revolve around a mission to kill a character named Hariz Saeed who is shown to be the leader of a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan and thought to be the mastermind behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
Lead actor Saif Ali Khan’s intentions aside, some of his statements post LHC’s verdict – such as “I don’t have faith in Pakistan” — caused a furore on social media. Local celebrities Hamza Ali Abbasi and Shaan Shahid were perhaps most vocal.
Amidst all of this, Pakistani starlet Mawra Hocane — who at that time was shooting for her upcoming Bollywood film in Cape Town and probably had little idea what was happening back home — was sent a tweet by someone who questioned her patriotism by asking how she could work in Bollywood when India was making films like Phantom.
All Mawra said in response was that she would watch the film before commenting and so should everyone else:
Not many would have even noticed her comment. But all hell broke loose as film actor Shaan soon posted a screenshot of her tweets on his Facebook page calling for a “ban” on the actress:
What followed was nothing short of a nightmare. Mawra was on a flight back home from Cape Town when her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts were flooded with hate comments. By the time she landed, Shaan’s hashtag — #BanMawra — had turned into a social media hate campaign.
“I was shocked, surprised and hurt. I am the most-followed and loved celebrity on social media. To see a hate campaign triggered by a fellow actor was painful,” Mawra said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
“The backlash was so severe it scared me. So I thought I would delete the tweets which would put an end to it. But it didn’t,” she added.
Mawra says she was left with no choice but to post a detailed response on her Facebook page.
“I normally don’t respond to hate comments because they are a part of an actor’s life. The only reason I was compelled to react this time was because my fans and followers, who are still supporting me unconditionally, wanted me to say something and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”
She also said that she hadn’t even seen Phantom‘s trailer and had only tweeted about what she had heard about it from her Twitter followers. “All I ever wanted and still do is to promote peace.”
When asked to comment on the on-going hate campaign against her, she said: “I am ashamed of everyone who would put my country’s dignity in the hands of a film. That’s the same as belittling your own country. No one is capable of doing that. It’s way too sacred. I love Pakistan and it’s in my heart and soul. And I will always belong to it regardless of where I work.”
In response to Shaan’s call to “ban” her (whatever that means), Mawra said, “I don’t need someone to tell me whether I belong to Pakistan. I am Pakistani and I will always remain a Pakistani. It is something no one can take away from me regardless of how many campaigns they launch.”
She continued, “I am not the only one. He has targeted every actor who has ever set foot in India be it Ali Zafar or Javed Sheikh. He needs to get over all of us.”
But she still doesn’t hate him. “Of course not! I don’t hate him. Because I truly believe in this quote: Love what loves you, but never hate what hates you for it exhausts the stars in you.”
She has no reason to either. Mawra says most of the Pakistani actors have contacted her to show support. A-list stars Mahira Khan and Fahad Mustafa even tweeted in her favour:
Finally, when asked what message she would like to give to her fans, Mawra said, “I urge everyone to be a dreamer.”
And a dreamer she is for sure. She just finished a schedule in Cape Town and is headed to Australia in a couple of days to spend time with her parents.