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In a scene from Benny Toraty's 2001 Israeli film Desperado Square, one of the characters describes the attitude towards Indian cinema like this — "Nobody cares about watching old Indian movies". The dialogue, used in reference to the 1964 Raj Kapoor movie Sangam, couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to Indian movies in Israel. "Indian movies from the '50s and '60s were very popular in Israel," says Torati, whose film was screened for the first time in Delhi as part of the Delhi International Film Festival at the NDMC Convention Centre in Connaught Place.
Desperado Square is about two brothers who open an old theatre in Israel, where they also screen Sangam. "The trend of watching Indian movies started with Raj Kapoor's Shree 420 (1955). Practically, everyone in Israel went to the theatres to watch it. There was a huge craze for films of Raj Kapoor during the '60s in Israel," he adds.
The 57-year-old filmmaker, on his first visit to the country, is among his country's large fanbase of Indian cinema, especially Bollywood, having watched films of legends such as Shammi Kapoor, Jeetendera, Rajendra Kumar, Asha Parekh, Dilip Kumar and Dharmendra. "I admired the romanticism of the characters and the songs in these films. Though I don't remember most of the names of films, I especially remember watching Junglee (1961) and being inspired by it as a youngster," he says.
Desperado Square received five awards from the Israeli film academy and two awards for Best Director and Best Script at international film festivals, such as Montpellier Film Festival, France, and Valencia Film festival, Spain, respectively. "The film was a homage to my parents since they were fans of Raj Kapoor films. I am more of a Shammi Kapoor fan," says Toraty, whose favourite film is the Shashi Kapoor starrer Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978). "Maybe, someday I will make an Israeli version of the film," he says.