The Indian Film Festival in Israel got off to a rousing start here with noted actor-turned-director Amol Palekar's period film Anaahat drawing huge applause from cinema enthusiasts despite its unusual plot.
Set in the 10th century in Shravasti, the capital of the Kingdom of Malla, and shot in the palaces of Hampi, Anaahat (Eternity) revolves around two individuals — the king of Malla, who is unable to provide an heir, and the Queen, Sheelavati, who is forced to choose a potent mate for one night. But while the queen is ordered to produce an inheritor through the prevalent custom of Niyoga, she ends up enjoying the sexual act and overtly demands for a repeat.
"Though the film is set in 10th century India the plot is of contemporary relevance as it raises questions related to gender issues and relationships encountered even today," said Palekar, 65, who attended the screening with his wife Sandhya.
The film, with its story of a woman defying the norm to assert her sexuality, surprised many in the audience, who were expecting a typical Bollywood fare.
"I did not come expecting this but was pleasantly surprised. I have studied about gender issues in India and this film added to my knowledge raising certain genuine feminine questions," Dana Hirshfeld, a student of Indian Studies, told PTI. "It was an unusual plot for an Indian film but beautifully presented in sites that reminded me of my trip to India," Hirshfeld added.