Indian films dealing with cross-border issues haven’t had much luck getting past Pakistani censors in the past. So Bollywood fans in Pakistan couldn’t have been very positive about Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s chances of releasing there, given that it concerns Salman Khan transporting a mute girl across the border. After the trailer released, Dawn ran a cautiously optimistic piece quoting Zain Wali of Eveready Pictures (the distributors of the film in Pakistan), who said that Bajrangi Bhaijaan “is set to release on Eid and this is 102 percent confirmed".

Until yesterday, it seemed very likely that that Bajrangi Bhaijaan would release in Pakistan this weekend. Two of the country’s major censor boards (Pakistan’s provinces have their own censor authorities) had cleared the film. The Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) – which covers the Islamabad Capital Territory, cantonments around the country, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa –awarded it a certificate, albeit with ‘several cuts’, according to a statement by chairman Mobashir Hasan to The Express Tribune. The Sindh Board of Film Censors (SBFC) also cleared the film. Its chairman, former singer and actor Fakhr-e-Alam, tweeted: “Infact bajrangi bhai jaan is the most positive film for Pakistan that bollywood has produced in a long time. Totally unexpected."

Given that Bajrangi director Kabir Khan’s last film with Salman, Ek Tha Tiger, wasn’t passed by the censors there (its lead characters were ISI and RAW agents), the film’s smooth passage is also fairly unexpected. Other Indian films concerning Pakistan, Kashmir or the ISI haven’t been that lucky: Tere Bin Laden, Agent Vinod, Khiladi 786, Lahore, Haider and Baby were all denied censor certificates, while Jab Tak Hai Jaan almost missed out on a Pakistan release. That Bajrangi managed to get past the censors points not only to the popularity of Salman, and Bollywood in general, across the border but also to the fact that the film seems engineered for mass appeal and is unlikely to risk ruining its commercial prospects by inserting any political message more complex than “we are all the same".

Yet, despite surviving the censors, a legal wrangle has resulted in the film’s release being put on hold. A couple of days ago, EMI Pakistan sent a notice to Satish Anand, CEO of Eveready Pictures, alleging that that film hadn’t acquired the rights to the famous qawwali Bhar Do Jholi (sung by Adnan Sami in the film) from them. Anand offered to remove the song for the Pakistan release, but EMI refused, saying that the licensing would have to be acquired and that they were considering working “internationally to stop the release if they do not settle the matter amicably".

While Bajrangi’s Eid release in Pakistan now looks rather unlikely, in what is probably a first, a Pakistani film will have an Eid release in India. The import in question is Bin Roye, which is directed by Momina Duraid and Shehzad Kashmiri and stars Mahira Khan, who will appear alongside Shah Rukh Khan in Raees next year. Sadly, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has rained on this show of cross-border cultural bonhomie, insisting that the film be pulled from all theatres in Maharashtra.

The MNS allegedly wrote to the B4U Films, Bin Roye’s distributor, on July 10, warning them of consequences if they released the film in the state. Ameya Khopkar, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Karmachari Sena, the film wing of the MNS, told Mumbai Mirror, “We opposed the release of the film in Maharashtra since it is a Pakistani film. We don’t want a Pakistani film here when they are attacking us." B4U has reportedly agreed to this ‘ban’, and will only release the film in other states.

This story has been updated since it was first published.

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