Madhur Bhandarkar's latest controversial drama "Indu Sarkar" has registered earnings of over Rs.4 crore at the box office in its opening weekend and has received mixed reviews from critics. But the filmmaker says his spirit is neither dampened by the collections nor by the feedback.
He calls "Indu Sarkar" a "niche project made on a budget of Rs.6.5 crore to Rs.7 crore".
While the audience and critics have praised lead actress Kirti Kulhari, some critics have called the film "a watered-down, bloodless version" of the Emergency period, a propaganda movie which offers "half-baked" politics.
Asked about the mixed reviews, Bhandarkar told IANS: "The collection is decent and quite good considering the budget of the film. I am very happy with the response. It was a limited budget and a niche film. We have mainly newcomers in the film. The film was shot in 42 days.
"The film has already collected more than Rs 4 crore. I am quite happy. We will further collect more amount from satellite and digital rights. We are working out on that."
While appreciating how small budget films like "Indu Sarkar" and "Lipstick Under My Burkha" are pushing boundaries at the box office, Bhandarkar said: "I am very happy for 'Lipstick Under My Burkha'. It has done very well at the box office. That one also is a small budget film. I am very happy that these kinds of movies are being appreciated by the multiplex audience and the youngsters.
"The response over social media is superb. I have only heard positive reviews for 'Indu Sarkar'."
The anticipation for "Indu Sarkar" was high given how it was pitched as a film on the Emergency period from 1975-1977 — considered one of the darkest periods of the Indian democracy. Controversies naturally preceded its release on July 28, even as Congress supporters voiced concern over how former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi were portrayed.
Even the censor board impeded its release by initially demanding 12 cuts and two disclaimers. But the revising committee ultimately settled for two cuts and one disclaimer and a few beeps, which Bhandarkar was satisfied with as it didn't tamper with the narrative.
Now that the film has released in India, Bhandarkar hopes to take it to film festivals.
"It was unfortunate that because of the censorship issue, we couldn't release the film overseas. That was a big loss. In US, Britain and Dubai, you are required to give censor copy weeks in advance.
"We are looking to release the film abroad. Let's see what happens, but I am planning to take the film to a lot of film festivals," added the National Award winning filmmaker, who has earlier helmed movies like "Page 3", "Traffic Signal" and "Fashion".
He is especially euphoric about how Kirti's role is being lauded by everyone.
"She is a very talented actress. This was her first film as a main lead actress. I am really happy for her because she deserves it due to the kind of talent she has. I would love to work with her again," he added.
While "Indu Sarkar" released alongside Anil Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor-starrer "Mubarakan" at the box office, Bhandarkar said it's not right to compare the two films.
"It's a wrong parameter to compare my film with 'Mubarakan'. It's a commercial film. Mine is a niche film."