Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a feel-good film that wavers just momentarily at the end, seemingly unsure about propounding an overtly messianic message. All it lacked was the eponymous character played by Salman Khan walking on the water to embrace the little girl Shahida (alias Munni) who he had restored to her Pakistan home, braving the most formidable odds.

Bajrangi’s devotion to Hanuman makes him a guileless truth-teller. His courage is manifest in the manner he physically challenges and defeats all those who abuse or threaten harm to his little ward. He does not suffer from an intellectual abundance, his graduation at the eleventh attempt being so profoundly shocking that a stern and demanding father who had abandoned all hope, also abandoned his earthly existence on hearing the news. His simplicity of intellect though, comes with a nobility of the soul and purity of heart.

The last sequence in the film when a little girl deprived of speech since birth magically utters those few syllables deeply evocative of Hanuman’s devotion to Lord Ram, is when Bajrangi approaches the status of the messiah. But rather than glide across the waters that separate India from Pakistan, between two forbiddingly high fences that bristle with firepower, he wades.

Bajrangi had achieved a miracle of a different order though. Guns on both sides had been spiked by the sheer force of his goodness. Soldiers and security officials, though duty bound to block the assertion of people power, stood aside, mute spectators to the tearing down of fences that separated hearts and minds.

Bajrangi’s nobility triggered that ebullience of goodwill in a neighbourhood otherwise drenched in mutual suspicion. But he could not have worked his messianic magic without an accessory. And that came in the shape of a grungy, bumbling news reporter, short of ability and professional creds. Sniffing a story in the supposed infiltration of an Indian spy, he sets off in stealthy pursuit of Bajrangi but is converted when he overhears a narration of his story.

Chand Nawab, named after a real-life individual from Karachi whose continual botching of a mundane news report made him a social media sensation some months back, becomes Bajrangi’s principal advisor and strategist. After successive rebuffs from established news outlets, which see no reason to air his story, he arrives in a moment of revelation on social media as the ideal platform.

Shahida is soon restored to her parents but Bajrangi languishes in a torture cell of the Pakistan police. Chand Nawab again figures a way through the maze of the security and intelligence apparatus, mobilising a massive outpouring of people power at the border to ensure that the human instinct prevails. Again, social media is his weapon of choice.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan comes just months after another Hindi film, PK, made an effort to humanise a hostile neighbour whose alterity in some senses is central to Indian national identity. There again, the media was cast as an agency that could engineer transformative moments in public perception, where people could be mobilised to wear down established structures of power. In the Aamir Khan starrer PK, a spiritual huckster is exposed in real time by a clairvoyant extra-terrestrial on a live TV show. In the process, a young TV reporter’s romance with a Pakistan national – thwarted by parental resistance and the huckster’s fraudulent forecasts -- blossoms again.

In the real world meanwhile, the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers pulled a rabbit out of a hat with a meeting on the sidelines of a multilateral summit in Russia and an agreement to resume talks. Media commentary sifted through the agreed joint statement to identify any possibility that India may have retreated from core demands. Meanwhile, the guns opened up along the frontier, reducing to absurdity a core Indian demand that violence should cease before talks begin. With talks just days away, the Pakistan High Commissioner accused India of seventy ceasefire violations over two months, only to have his statement dismissed out of court as another piece of effrontery from an envious neighbour.

In Jammu, two locals tried accessing the venue of an official event for India’s independence day, one of them in a ploy borrowed from Bajrangi Bhaijaan, draped in a burkah. They were arrested and identified immediately as elements of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorist group. That evidently is the default setting for any media report.

On July 27, a group of militants attacked a police station in Punjab and were promptly identified as infiltrators from Pakistan, carrying on their persons every manner of telltale evidence. A later effort to retrace the militants’ infiltration route using GPS sets they allegedly carried, revealed utter confusion. There was simply no way that they could have come across one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

The media though seemed not to be listening, as it settled into an accustomed pattern of demonisation of the neighbour. If the content of recent film releases from Bollywood suggest a mood shift, the mainstream media is obviously yet to wake up and smell the coffee.