The Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2010 was inaugurated on Tuesday by noted Malayalam actor Jayaram.

The opening feature in the section, ‘Mee Sindhutai Sapkal,' a Marathi film directed by Ananth Mahdevan based on the life of Sindhutai Sapkal, a social reformer, struck an emotional chord with the audience which spontaneously applauded the spirit of a woman who braved all odds in her life and emerged a winner. Ms. Sapkal was present along with the director, and entire cast and crew of the film at the event.

Later, interacting with the media persons at the Media Centre of IFFI, Mr. Mahadevan said, “I have been very lucky, this is not a mere film for me, it was a life-changing experience.”

He said he was extremely happy that their efforts have been appreciated.

Beginning on a shoe string budget of Rs. 80 lakh, which later got stretched to Rs.1.5 crore, it is an inspiring, feminist film. It traces the true story of Ms. Sapkal, who dramatically rewrites her destiny.

Born into a poor family in Wardha in Maharashtra, Sindhutai is married at the age of 12 to a 30-year-old man, but is abandoned by him and her family following false accusations of infidelity. When about to commit suicide, she notices a tree which, though axed, gives shelter. Moved, she sets out on a journey towards dignity, setting up five orphanages for abandoned children — travelling to San Jose, United States, to raise funds. When her ageing husband turns up at the orphanage, she graciously accepts him. The film's deep humanism in the face of injustice and humiliation gives it a universal resonance.

Ms. Sapkal said: “I am satisfied with the way the film has portrayed my life. I am seeing my past through the film.”

Talking to the media, she said, “The film has captured the essence of my life,” adding that she had forgiven her husband, for, if he had not left her she would not have been able to contribute to the lives of others.

Responding to a question, Ms. Sapkal, who has written her memoirs ‘Mee Vanvasi' in Marathi, said she firmly believed that no one else should undergo the sufferings she had undergone, and this was the reason why she allowed a film to be made on her life. “I have forgiven all those who were responsible for all my sufferings including my husband,” she said.

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