By Shilpa Jamkhandikar
MUMBAI (Reuters) – A low-budget Bollywood film about young women recruited by the Islamic State has stirred up passionate debate, helping to make it an instant box-office hit in India.
“The Kerala Story,” set in the coastal southern state of the same name, follows three women who are indoctrinated, converted and sent to IS camps.
The Hindi-language film, starring relative unknowns, has racked up more than 450 million rupees ($5.50 million) in ticket sales since its theatrical release on Friday, a rarity in Bollywood, according to figures compiled and posted by trade analyst Taran Adarsh on Twitter.
“The box-office is tough these days, but ‘The Kerala Story’ is defying norms with its box office success,” producer and industry analyst Girish Johar said in an interview. It is easily among the top 10 films in terms of opening numbers this year.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the film by director Sudipto Sen, saying it showed the consequences of terrorism. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, two states ruled by his Bharatiya Janata Party, have exempted the film from state taxes, making tickets cheaper.
Critics, however, say the film incites negative sentiments against the country’s minority Muslim population. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has banned it from the state “to avoid any incident of hatred and violence,” she said, calling it a “distorted story.”
The Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association on Sunday blocked screenings in the state as “a precautionary measure” to maintain law and order.
However, the Kerala High Court has refused to impose a ban in the state where the film is set, saying it was “inspired by true events.” The Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal against the high court’s order next week.
($1 = 81.7800 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; Editing by Richard Chang)