Meneka and Sheenu Das were so determined to make their first feature, Little Box Of Sweets, they took out a bank loan, used their savings and sold Sheenu's house to fund it.

But the ambitious sisters, who moved from India to the UK in the early 1990s, have no regrets. 'You have to lose something to gain something else. And taking everything into account, I would do it all again,' says Sheenu Das, who produced and acted in the film.

Little Box Of Sweets is a coming-of-age story, set in Allahabad, northern India, about a schoolgirl who falls in love with a local commissioner's son. It is the directorial debut of UK-based actress Meneka Das, who also starred in the film and wrote the script after her father died in 1999. 'It's not autobiographical, but is based on my experiences and observations of growing up in the area,' she says.

Despite interest from several big Bollywood producers, the sisters were determined not to compromise their labour of love with musical numbers and product placement. 'I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off in the same way, because it is from our heart,' explains Sheenu.

They were also keen to show there is more to Indian cinema than Bollywood extravaganzas. 'India has so many stories to tell and there is a generation of Indian film-makers desperately trying to be heard. The average person in India would like to have an alternative to Bollywood,' says Meneka.

The film was shot entirely in India on a budget of $180,000 (£100,000), with the locals rallying round, and family and friends providing everything from music to lighting, locations, costumes and food. 'Nobody had made a film in Allahabad before, so it was a big event,' says Meneka.

She also managed to enlist the help of the late casting director, Mary Selway, who brought Joe Anderson on board to play the son. Now building a reputation in Hollywood with roles in Jennifer Aniston comedy Travelling and Mira Nair's Amelia, Little Box Of Sweets was Anderson's first feature film. 'I'm not sure he's quite recovered from the experience,' laughs Meneka.

With no distributor or sales company, the Das sisters have had to do it all themselves, from taking the film to festivals to making posters. They managed to secure a limited UK theatrical run: two weeks at London's ICA, followed by the Sheffield Showroom, with more screenings being lined up at UK independent cinemas.

The sisters are now going in different directions. Meneka's latest project is a low-budget road movie, Summer Of Our Lives, about two girls driving from Bombay to London, while Sheenu has her sights set on a Bollywood/Hollywood collaboration for her script, Cowboys And Indians, which she would love Quentin Tarantino to direct and George Clooney to star in. They may be aiming high, but after pulling off Little Box Of Sweets, anything is possible.