When noted Israeli playwright-filmmaker Motti Lerner and popular short story writer Savyon Liebrecht presented their literature to a packed house here, it was a way of bringing Israel and India closer.
Israel was the draw of a truncated edition of the Kovalam Literary Festival at the India International Centre (IIC) here Thursday.
Award winning writer Liebrecht, who has penned six volumes of short stories, read an English excerpt of one of her stories about the journey of a young woman in search of identity. Her metaphors were wood apples in the desert.
Savyon hinted at a gamut of issues like religion, freedom and struggle for rights which qualify the current-day socio-politics of West Asia.
"I think there is something very common in the way the process of creativity talks... all over the world. I usually write about what I am familiar with but I do not write about personal experiences," Savyon said.
Commenting on literature and politics, Savyon said the "majority of the writers and artists belong to the Left and a handful belong to the right wing in Israel. The right wingers tend to see life in black and white".
India and Israel, the cradles of two world religions, Hinduism and Judaism, have nurtured rich legacies of culture and history over the centuries.
Lerner said: "Indian plays like those in Israel have strong political echoes - but their style is traditional and are often grounded in mythology. But I use contemporary stories and style to comment on the present."
The playwright, one of whose plays - "In The Dark" - is being staged in India, said "memories of the holocaust and politics were the two defining forces in Israeli theatre unlike mythology which lends Indian theatre its dramatic colour".
India and Israel, strikingly dissimilar in size and population, however, share a common reality: they both belong to societies that are struggling to create themselves as new modern societies, Lerner said.
Toting numbers, Lerner said "3.5 million of the total population of a little more than 6 million in Israel are theatre-goers". The medium, like in India, reaches out to half the country's population.
The playwright who has made eight tele-episodes and two feature films, mostly about the trauma of the holocaust, said the "the audience in India has been very responsive to his plays and movies". He taught play-writing at Jawaharlal Nehru University last year.
"I had screened one of my feature films, 'Spring 1941', which I had made in 2008 starring Joseph Fiennes at the Whistling Woods acting school in Mumbai. It was about a Jewish family escaping from the Nazi occupation. It was a fascinating school," the playwright said.
Lerner is looking for a collaboration in Bollywood. "With the world becoming universal, we can work with each other very easily," Lerner said. Lerner is currently shooting for "Madeleine", a feature film about a girl who survives the Nazi massacre of Poland in 1942 and working on a book on the "influence of political theatre on moral judgments of spectators".
"An anthology of three of my plays in English will also be published in India," he said.
India has inspired Lerner to revive one of his controversial plays. The freedom of expression here is infectious, Lerner said. "I will work my controversial play, 'Murder of Isaac' 12 years after I wrote it."
The play is based on the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a rightwing Jew.