The film Manthan in many ways reminds us of the times we are living it (it has that haunting song by Preeti Sagar, mera gaam kaatha …i wonder where did she disappeared). The brutality and violence unleashed on poor, the violence in NE Delhi and the way those who unleashed the violence are now our saviours. But it’s also the film about times when there was that Nehruvian dream of building cooperative societies, peoples movements, etc…, and all those things that are taboo now. Directed by Shyam Benegal, released in 1976 it is like a documentary and history of struggle faced by the dairy farmers, which is now known as the Amul. Its a unique film because it was the first successful experiment of what is now called as crowdfunding. Some 5 lakhs dairy farmers funded the film by contributed Rs 2 each. And when it was released it was a big box office hit because they all came on trucks and flooded the cinema halls in thousands to watch it. It has galaxy of stars, many of them were regular actors in many of the Benegal’s films. Naseeruddin Shah , Smita Patil, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Amrish Puri, Mohan Agashe, Anant Nag and others. If i remember correctly about that interview, Benegal told Shohini Gosh that this was the debut film of Kulbhushan Kharbanda. When he was offered the role, he used to live in Kolkata. He came to catch a train to meet Benegal on his two-wheeler, parked it at the Kolkata railway station and then never returned to Kolkata to pick it up. Written by Benegal and Kurien Verghese, the iconic Malyali who went to Gujarat to set up the cooperative and then at a very late age was unceremoniously thrown out of his position (thats a different story). He also set up the management institute IRMA in Anand. To top it all, it had the well-known Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi wrote the dialogues. Shama Zadi was the art director, screenplay written by Vijay Tendulkar and camera by Govind Nihalini (who went on to make films like Aakrosh, Party, Ardh Satya etc). There are many sub-plots in the story. There beautiful unsaid romance between the married Girish Karnard and Smita Patil, which is never resolved. It has dalits getting together to form a cooperative, but being kind of defeated by the upper caste sarpanch and others, it has society elections, being won by dalits and subverted, and lots of other things. The film is available on youtube with a very good copy.. Watch it in times of despair…

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