Doctors Without Borders To Take Legal Action Against Bollywood Film

August 28, 2015

Doctors without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is seeking legal action against the producers of a new Bollywood film that it says portrays a worker for a “confusingly similar” aid organization who assists in tracking down and killing the head of a Pakistani extremist faction.

The just-released Phantom, stars Saif Ali Khan as an Indian soldier who is on the trail of Islamist militants wanted for the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Actress Katrina Kaif, who plays an aid worker for an organization called Medicine International, joins the protagonist in his pursuit.

Kaif, in recent interviews for the Hindi-language film, was quoted as saying “NGO workers have ties with local fanatical groups” in conflict zones, according to Reuters.

Although Médecins Sans Frontières is not specifically mentioned in the film, the organization says one or more of the film’s actors have referenced the aid organization in promotional interviews for the film.

“We would like to clarify that MSF has never been consulted or even contacted over the content of this film and is not associated with it in any way,” MSF said in a statement.

“MSF is also very concerned that in the trailer for the film, a character portrayed as working for an [organization] confusingly similar to MSF is seen holding a gun,” the international aid group said.

“MSF also has a strict no guns policy in all our clinics and we do not employ armed guards. None of our staff would ever carry a gun. Any portrayal that suggests otherwise is dangerous, misleading and wrong,” it said.

The statement said MSF has “contacted the film’s production team and p[we] are taking legal action in order to correct this dangerous misrepresentation of our [organization] and its work.”

In a review of Phantom, Shilpa Jamkhandikar of Reuters notes: “Even before the first scene … there is a long, hastily narrated disclaimer using all sorts of legalese about how the film does not allude to any person, dead or alive. But once the movie gets underway, you [realize] that the disclaimer was just that – legalese.”

Last week in Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed — who is believed by Indian authorities to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks despite having been acquitted by a Pakistani court in 2010 — won a plea at the Lahore High Court to have the film banned in the country, calling his portrayal, as the thinly disguised Hariz Saeed, “filthy propaganda.”

As NDTV reports:

“Before issuing a short-order on the film, which was scheduled to release on August 28, the judge observed that Indian and other movies are easily available after their release and asked the government what it could do to stop it from being available in the market if a movie is banned.

“‘If a movie is banned in cinemas what the government could do to stop it from being available in the market in CDs,’ the judge asked.”

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