The Legend of Maula Jatt, a popular Pakistani film, is about to make history by becoming the first movie from that nation to be released in India in more than ten years on December 30. This will signal a possible cultural breakthrough in the strained relations between the South Asian neighbours.
Director Bilal Lashari, 38, will release his Maula Jatt adaption in Indian Punjab and a few Delhi theatres, according to Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer of the Indian multiplex network INOX Leisure.
It will be performed in Punjab and a few INOX theatres in Delhi where Punjabi speakers are present.
Another Indian cinema chain, PVR Cinemas, shared the movie’s release announcement last week before removing it from its website. The incident highlighted the political risks Indian businesses and individuals face when doing business with their counterparts in Pakistan, however it is uncertain if the movie will continue to be shown in its theatres.
Since its global premiere in October, The Legend of Maula Jatt has gathered more than $10 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing Pakistani movie of all time.
But if the movie is released in India, far-right political parties there have pledged to demonstrate. Hindu nationalist Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Ameya Khopkar stated earlier in December that his group will not permit the film to be screened in India.
“Fawad Khan’s supporters, traitors,” said Khopkar, who is also a producer, “may very well go to Pakistan and watch the film.”
In light of this, entertainment journalist and festival programmer Aseem Chhabra predicted that screening the film in India wouldn’t be simple. He told Al Jazeera, “I won’t be astonished if the release of this movie has some political implications. But I think it’s a terrific chance to restart cultural exchanges between the two countries.
It has been ten years since Pakistan’s national cricket side last faced off against India in a bilateral series. Since then, only multi-team international competitions have pitted the two cricket-obsessed nations against one another.
Nevertheless, Pakistani musicians have kept making a name for themselves online in India. The song Pasoori, performed by Pakistani singers Ali Sethi and Shae Gill on the Coke Studio platform, has become one of this year’s biggest musical hits on both sides of the border. On Spotify India, it was one of the most streamed songs.
Joyland, Pakistan’s Oscar nomination, was also screened in November at the Dharamshala International Film Festival in northern India. According to Chhabra, the movie was so well-received there that the festival’s organisers had to add another showing.
The Legend of Maula Jatt’s probable release prompted Rafay Mahmood, a film critic and cultural analyst based in Karachi, to point out that India has not expressly forbade the production of Pakistani films or the use of Pakistani actors.
Because art is a “symbolic depiction” of a nation, he contends that the two nations restrict it. “Arts, culture, and entertainment are the first things a state’s establishment targets when enforcing its soft power. Whether it’s through music, sports, or cinema, they serve as a nation’s symbolic image. These recreational options are emblems of national identity, he claimed.
Chhabra However, was upbeat about The Legend of Maula Jatt’s debut and remarked that it was “thrilling” to watch a hugely well-liked Pakistani film debut in Indian theatres.
These cultural ties, in my opinion, are significant, Chhabra added. “It will improve relations between the people of Pakistan and India.”
Punjab, a crucial potential market for the movie, is still mourning the passing of Sidhu Moose Wala, a well-known rapper who was known for his anti-establishment, rebellious music. Mahmood speculated that viewers there would simply gather to watch a Pakistani film as a show of defiance.
The Legend of Maula Jatt might pass without too much controversy, according to Mahmood, as right-wing organisations in India are currently attacking Shahrukh Khan, a former co-star of Mahira Khan, over a recent movie he appeared in. “For BJP-fueled right wingers, a Pakistani film playing in some areas of Punjab is more of a worry than the success of a Muslim superstar in India.”