Filmmaker Ashok Nanda's second directorial venture Rivaaz, about prostitution as a family profession, will be screened at the New York International Film Festival that begins July 19.
"The organisers have given three stars to Rivaaz out of four. And they have also recommended the film for Toronto International Film Festival," Nanda, who released his first film Hum Tum Aur Mom in 2005, told IANS.
It is hard to believe that prostitution is practised as a family business in India.
"When I was told about it, I couldn't believe it either. I learnt about it while I was in the US. Somebody showed me a UNICEF report that stated that family prostitution is rampant in 376 districts in India," said the director.
The film revolves around a teenage girl, played by newcomer Ritisha, whose father (Rajendra Gupta) is preparing to push her into the flesh trade but her mother (Deepti Naval) protests.
"When I first approached the actors they refused to believe me. Deepti said they had heard about it but didn't think it was true. So I gave them each a copy of the UNICEF report. After reading the report they were convinced and agreed to work in the film," said Nanda.
Item girl Meghna Naidu also plays an important role in the film.
"There is no place for a plain Jane in these villages. The families torture unattractive girls because they are unable to attract people and fetch good business. Meghna is playing one of the ordinary looking girls. Her family hates her because she is neither beautiful nor healthy," said Nanda.
Nanda said the fathers are the business managers and brothers the official pimps.
"The brothers bring customers and the fathers negotiate with them about money and everything. Interestingly, these people don't consider it unethical and have no intention of stopping it. There are villages in Rajasthan and Kerala where people are into family prostitution," said Nanda.
Nanda, one of the co-producers, made the movie at a budget of Rs.1.5 crore. "One of my producers is in the US. Her name is Vijaya Kamat and another one is Sandeep Jain."
Rivaaz has been shot in a village called Wai near Panchgani, a hill station in Maharashtra.
"I wanted to shoot it in a place which doesn't practise family prostitution for obvious reasons. So I chose Wai. I have shot the film with real villagers. Initially, they refused to act but when I explained the situation, they agreed.
"It is not a documentary film. I shot it in a semi-commercial format because I want people to come and see my film. You can say that I have made the film without spoiling the flavour of art cinema. I plan to release it in September in India."