India release of Pakistani film The Legend of Maula Jatt stalled

Despite getting approval from India’s censor board, the screening of The Legend of Maula Jatt has been postponed.

poster of The Legend of Maula Jatt
Official poster of The Legend of Maula Jatt [Handout: Geo Films]

Islamabad, Pakistan – The release of the Pakistani blockbuster The Legend of Maula Jatt in India has been postponed, according to sources close to filmmakers, stalling the screening of the first Pakistan film in India in more than 10 years.

The postponement comes as Hindu far-rights groups in India have threatened to oppose the release of the film that has so far grossed more than $10m at the box office, becoming the top-grossing Pakistan movie of all time.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday, sources confirmed that despite getting approval from India’s central censor board, the film was not screened on December 30, as previously planned.

“The film received its approval from the censor board, but its release was stopped due to unknown reasons,” a member of the team behind the movie confirmed to Al Jazeera.

The sources said that the distributors are trying to seek a new release date.

Al Jazeera also sought comments from an official of Zee Studio, which has acquired the rights to the movie in India, but the request was declined citing the “sensitivity of the matter”.

INOX Leisure, an Indian multiplexes chain, had on December 26 said that the movie will be screened in the northern Indian state of Punjab as well as select theatres in the capital New Delhi, confirmed to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency that they were informed by the distributors that the release of the film has been delayed.

“We have been informed by the distributors that the release of the film has been postponed. We were told this two to three days ago. No further date has been shared with us,” an official from multiplex chain INOX told PTI.

The Indian censorship board has so far made no official statement on the reasons behind the delay in the release of the movie, which could have been the first Pakistani film in 11 years to be released in India.

The Legend of Maula Jatt, directed by 38-year-old Bilal Lashari, was released worldwide in October this year, garnering global acclaim.

Strained bilateral ties

The film, the adaptation of the 1979 cult classic Maula Jatt, stars Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan, both of whom have previously worked in Bollywood – the Hindi-language film industry in India.

But sources told Al Jazeera that it is “highly unlikely” that any of the cast, including Fawad and Mahira, will travel to India even if the film does get the green light in the future.

Pakistani artists have been unofficially barred from performing in India, despite no formal ban, since 2016, when 19 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack on an army camp in Uri town in Indian-administered Kashmir.

India blames Pakistani for backing armed groups fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan – a charge Islamabad denies. Both India and Pakistan claim the Muslim-majority region in its entirety but govern only parts of it.

The ties between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations worsened in the wake of the deadly attack on Indian soldiers in 2019, with even sporting events put on hold between the two neighbours.

Islamabad halted diplomatic and trade ties with New Delhi after India’s Hindu nationalist government stripped the Kashmir region of its special status in 2019.

Pakistani cricketers are already kept put from the Indian Premier League (IPL) since 2009, the biggest domestic T20 cricket league in the world.

No Pakistani player has participated in the league, despite no formal ban, after the deadly Mumbai attacks in November 2008.

Source: Al Jazeera