Hindi-language romantic thriller The Vagabond (Awarapan) opened in Pakistan last weekend (July 6) on 15 prints, marking the first time an Indian film has been released in the territory at the same time as its global roll-out.

Indian films were banned in Pakistan in 1965, although pirated versions are widely available, and since then only four Bollywood titles have screened in the territory - usually months or even years after their domestic release. However, The Vagabond, produced by Mahesh Bhatt and handled overseas by Studio 18, has been released just one week after it opened in India and international territories on June 29.

The almost day-and-date release was mostly due to the film's Pakistani-born and Dubai-based executive producer, Sohail Khan, who arranged its local distribution. As the film was presented to the local censorship board as a production from an overseas Pakistani, it had an easier time being cleared for commercial exhibition.

The film also marks the first time that an Indian film has had a soundtrack exclusively featuring Pakistani artists - including popular rock band Roxen. It was also partly shot in the Pakistani city of Lahore although most of the action takes place in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

'This is a special moment for Pakistanis who until now have been watching [Indian films] on DVD. Now people have the chance to watch Awarapan on the big screen,' said Khan.

The Indian industry is watching the release closely, hoping it will lead to the gradual opening of the Pakistan market.

However, the film may also arouse a quite different kind of international attention as it bears an uncanny similarity to the Korean crime thriller A Bittersweet Life, distributed internationally by CJ Entertainment. Both films tell the tale of a young hoodlum who is charged with keeping an eye on the unfaithful girlfriend of a mafia boss.

Bollywood frequently pays homage to foreign movies by re-making them in its own image - without permission from the copyright owner. In this case, a CJ Entertainment spokesman told Screendaily that the company has not sold any remake rights to A Bittersweet Life, although it had been in the final stages of a deal to sell Hindi-language remake rights to an unrelated UK production company.

Park Chan-wook's Old Boy also has been the subject of a Bollywood remake - Sanjay Gupta's Zinda starring Sanjay Dutt and John Abraham - again without permission from the original producers.

As for The Vagabond, its Pakistani release may mark a turning point for the Indian film industry, but the film faces an uphill battle at the Pakistani box office which has been affected by severe flooding and the recent hostage crisis at the Red Mosque in Islamabad.