Moving beyond the business of Bollywood

Israel's first Indian film festival in recent years indicates a resurgent interest in Indian culture.

the rising 298.88 (photo credit: )
the rising 298.88
(photo credit: )
India may have the largest film industry in the world - known as Bollywood - but it's relatively rare that Indian films are shown here in Israel. Israelis will get a chance to look at some of the best of Indian cinema when the Film Festival of India in Israel (FFII) opens at the major cinematheques across the country, in Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Although Bollywood is known for flashy musicals that don't travel well, in recent years, India has been producing a growing number of serious, well-made films that have found an international audience. The festival, which is being organized by the Indian Embassy and the cinematheques, runs from January 5-18 and will present eight recent Indian films, three of which have just been released. Unlike most film festivals that run at several cinematheques, each city will have its own opening film. The festival kicks off in Tel Aviv on the night of January 5 with Apaharan (Kidnapping) at 8:30 p.m. The film, directed by Prakash Jha, tells the story of a son trying desperately to please his distinguished father, set against the backdrop of India's "kidnapping industry," the frequent kidnappings of the rich and prominent. Jerusalem's Indian film festival begins on January 7 at 8:45 p.m. with The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Panday, a historical epic about an 1857 revolt against the British, directed by Ketan Mehta. On January 8 at 9:30 p.m., Haifa's Indian film festival opens with Being Cyrus. Directed by Homi Adajania, it is part of a recent Indian New Wave of more personal, offbeat films. Cyrus is a black comedy about a Parsi family in India. Several other films will be shown as part of the festival. Mr. And Mrs. Iyer tells the story of a Brahmin woman and a Muslim man who befriend each other on a bus trip and then pose as a married couple to protect the man from Hindu extremists. Directed by Aparna Sen, the film has won awards at film festivals all over the world. Mouna Ragam (The Silent Melody), is a 1986 musical in the Tamil language about a woman forced into an arranged marriage. Vidheyan (The Docile) tells the story of an exploited migrant worker. Vastupurush (The Spirit of the Guardian of the House) is about an upper-class doctor who decides to serve the poor. Yahaan is a musical look at a pair of star-crossed lovers set against the background of ethnic strife in Kashmir. Anyone interested in Indian culture or Bollywood movies is sure to enjoy this long overdue festival. For details, call the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at 03-606-0800 (extension 0), the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 02-565-4333 (extension 2), and the Haifa Cinematheque at 04-835-3521.