Israelis are "shocked" by a Bollywood director's decision to make a film on Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler that will show how the despot loved India and how he indirectly contributed to its independence.
"I am a proud Indian and assert my Indian identity everywhere I go in Israel. I tell fellow Israelis that in my birthplace there was no anti-semitism. However, I am having to bow my heads in shame at this recent ignorance shown by Bollywood, which is also very dear to us," Noah Massil, President of Central Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel (COIJI),said."All I know is that Hitler never supported India's independence. I will write to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in order to prevent bringing disrepute to our entertainment industry," said Massil, a Jew born in India but later migrated to Israel.
Israeli media widely covered the making of the film, Dear Friend Hitler, due to be released at the end of the year but newspaper articles generally desisted from taking a critical viewpoint and choosing to simply put the facts about the film on paper.
However, people are particularly dismayed by director, Rakesh Ranjan Kumar's claims that his film "shows Hitler's love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence."
"This director's ignorance is shocking to me. The ultimate evil will be glorified and made a big hero and all on the basis of unawareness," Hila, a student of Indian studies at Tel Aviv university said.
Faculty members at the universities with Indian studies department shared the "surprise" expressed by students who inquired about how the name Hitler is perceived in India.
Indian Jews in Israel are facing some uncomfortable questions regarding the making of the film.
Eliyahu Yosef, 74, who can recall India getting independence and the early years of nation building after achieving freedom, said, "Gandhi would turn in his grave if he heard of these claims."
"People are asking us questions regarding Indians' ignorance and we are finding it difficult to answer. It is one thing to explore a personality, but making this unreasonable claim is very stupid," Yosef said.
Some Israelis also expressed dismay at actor Anupam Kher's decision to star in the role of Hitler in the film.
"Kher is a very well respected actor in Israel and he made a special place in our heart by coming for the Indian film festival early this year. I wonder how the actor who has played the role of Gandhi earlier could choose to play the role of a demon," Sharon, a Bollywood enthusiast, said.
The film is said to look at Hitler's personality as well as his relationships with Eva Braun, to be played by Bollywood actress Neha Dhupia, and other associates as the Third Reich collapsed.
It is said to closely resemble the 2004 German film Downfall. "It will be a romance but not in the typical sense," Kumar had said.
The film's title is a reference to the two letters written by Gandhi to Hitler before World War II broke out in which he referred the Nazi dictator as "my dear friend", before pleading that he avoid starting a War.