2024 marks the Inner West Film Festival’s second year, taking place from 11-21 April across venues such as Dendy Newtown and Palace Norton Cinemas, along with Actors Centre Australia, Leichhardt Town Hall and Marrickville Golf Club.

One of the absolute standouts, a no holds barred highlight, is SAHELA.

Set within the vibrant Indian community of Western Sydney, SAHELA, captures the poignant journey of Vir Oza and Nitya Behl, a young married couple residing in Parramatta.

Struggling beneath the weight of Indian familial expectations and its ingrained gender norms, Vir and Nitya’s marriage is sinking under a sexual anxiety, a dragging down to drown spiral that finally propels Vir to disclose his true sexuality to Nitya.

This revelation causes a rupture between the couple, casting a cloud of societal disgrace over their respective family’s deeply held cultural values, and testing Nitya’s idea of self . Still emotionally tethered to each other, total detachment is difficult, and the couple try to achieve an alternate perspective on love.

SAHELA is another product of the rich loam of experience and imagination that comes from the cross fertilisation of multiculturalism and the honest and open exploration of sexuality traditionally tagged taboo.

Director Raghuvir Joshi has joined with writers Atika Chohan, Jett Tattersall, and Shakthi Shakthidharan, whose play Cracking and Counting has attained classic status both here and abroad. SAHELA has the same potential to become a film classic.

Piled high with paradoxes and hovering above the inherent hypocrisy, SAHELA is a story of hope and reassurance, about emotions and experiences that cannot be articulated easily, but given exquisite expression in this exceptional film.

The cast is superb, Antonio Aakeel and Anula Navlekar share a beautiful chemistry as the principal players and the supporting cast is flawless.

If the rest of the fare at the Inner West Film Fest is merely half as good as SAHELA it’s ten days you’ll want to make room for.

For more details, please visit the festival website.