After Pakistan's ban on Indian producer and director Kabir Khan's Bollywood movie Phantom, the film is now in legal trouble with Médecins Sans Frontières over the Katrina Kaif's character. MSF says the movie, and British-Indian actress Kaif's character, misrepresents the medical group and could pose risks to its aid workers deployed in conflict zones.
Phantom is an action thriller, released on 28 August, that features Kaif and Saif Ali Khan. Kaif plays an MSF aid worker who helps a disgraced Indian soldier, played by Khan, to assassinate Pakistani militants accused of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai bombings.
In an interview to The Times Of India, Kaif was quoted as saying, "NGO workers have ties with local fanatical groups" in war-torn regions, without mentioning that many aid groups maintain strict neutrality in order to do their work safely. In the film, her character is seen firing a pistol and rifle in two different scenes.
MSF has released a statement saying that it was "disturbed" by Phantom's content, saying it had not been consulted over the content of the film and was not associated with it in any way. The humanitarian agency said that it has "a strict no guns policy" in all its clinics and did not employ armed guards, adding that "None of our staff would ever carry a gun. Any portrayal that suggests otherwise is dangerous, misleading and wrong."
"We have contacted the film's production team and are taking legal action in order to correct this dangerous misrepresentation of our organisation and its work," the statement read.
MSF, which has thousands of health workers such as doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists and psychiatrists in more than 70 countries, said it was essential that the group was not misrepresented given the dangerous nature of their work. "The only way we can safely work in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, where there is active fighting, is by explaining to every group on the ground that we are independent, neutral and impartial and interested only in providing medical care to people who need it," MSF said.
"Any portrayal that suggests MSF does anything other than provide medical care could endanger our patients, staff, our ability to work in places where people might not otherwise have access to healthcare and undermine our reputation," the group added.
Phantom was banned by the Lahore High Court in Pakistan last week in response to a petition filed by Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, which the United Nations has listed as a terrorist organization. Saeed is accused by India of plotting the Mumbai attacks.