Film Heritage Foundation restores Shyam Benegal’s milestone Hindi film ‘Manthan’ (1976) , India’s first crowdfunded film produced by 500,000 farmers

As the Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation Pvt. Ltd. / Amul celebrates its Golden Jubilee on February 22, 2024 this year, Film Heritage Foundation is delighted to announce that we will be restoring Shyam Benegal’s award-winning film “Manthan” in collaboration with the Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation Pvt. Ltd.

The film, a fictionalized version of the beginnings of the remarkable dairy cooperative movement that transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world’s largest milk produced inspired by Verghese Kurien, the Father of the White Revolution is also India’s first crowdfunded film produced by 500,000 dairy farmers who contributed Rs. 2/- each towards the production of the film.

THE FARMERS OF SANGANVA


SHIVENDRA SINGH DUNGARPUR

FILMMAKER, ARCHIVIST AND DIRECTOR, FILM HERITAGE FOUNDATION

“The restoration of a Shyam Benegal film has been on Film Heritage Foundation’s wish list for years as he is one of India’s most venerated filmmakers whose early films were iconic in India’s Parallel Cinema movement. “Manthan” is not only one of his finest films from that time, but also the story behind it was so unique – that 500,000 farmers contributed Rs. 2/- towards the making of the film that told the story of the birth of the milk cooperative movement while touching on so many issues like caste, class, gender and economic discrimination. The film was integral to spreading the message of the benefits of the cooperative movement to farmers across the country and a vital part of building the movement and the storied brand.”


SHYAM BENEGAL

DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER, MANTHAN

“I was absolutely delighted when Shivendra told me that Film Heritage Foundation was going to restore “Manthan” in collaboration with the Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

“Manthan” is a film that is very close to my heart as it was funded by 500,000 farmers and was instrumental in the growth of an extraordinary cooperative movement that was aimed at breaking the shackles of economic inequality and caste discrimination whilst empowering the farmers. It will remind the world of the power of cinema as a vehicle of change and also the legacy of the great Verghese Kurien, the Father of the White Revolution.

Govind Nihalani and I have been following the progress of the restoration closely and I am amazed by the meticulous approach to the restoration. It is wonderful to see the film come back to life almost like we made it yesterday.

Film Heritage Foundation has been doing remarkable work in film restoration. Not only are they beautifully restoring films from every region of India, but bringing them back to the public at festivals and screenings around the world in a way that showcases our unique film heritage to contemporary global audiences.”


DIRECTOR’S NOTE:

Around 1972 – 73, I got to make two of the three documentaries on Operation Flood, called Operation Flood I and II, which led to the White Revolution –  all because of Dr. Kurien and his rural marketing initiative IRMA, which was a pioneering institute. While doing these documentaries, I used to travel around the whole country and I came across many beautiful places. And I said to Dr. Kurien that these documentaries will be seen largely by those who have already been converted to the cause. What about the larger public? He agreed with me but said there was no money for a larger project. He did not take any money from the farmers. He told the collection centres that when they come for their daily morning and evening collection, ask them not to take Rs. 2/- and they can all become producers of a film! Then came Vijay Tendulkar who was blown away by the cooperative and wrote several scripts. I chose one and that was how Manthan was made.

Dr. Kurien released the film first in Gujarat before its all India release. The film did brilliantly because its largest audience was also the film’s producers! Every day, we had this incredible sight of truckloads of people coming in from all over to see the film. The film’s success gave Dr. Kurien another idea. To use the film to woo other parts of the country into the movement. So prints of 16 mm would be used by spearhead teams to persuade farmers to create cooperatives of their own. Like in Manthan, a vet, a milk technician and a fodder specialist who can explain the value of cross breeding would go and help set up cooperatives. That is how this man made India the largest milk producing nation in the world.


THE RESTORATION PROCESS:

Film Heritage Foundation used the best surviving elements for the restoration – the original camera negative and the 35 mm print preserved at the NFDC – NFAI. Unfortunately, the sound negative was not available. We digitized the sound from the 35 mm print preserved at Film Heritage Foundation. The film elements were repaired by the Film Heritage Foundation conservators and the scanning was done in Prasad Lab in Chennai We found that due to the deterioration of the print, there were vertical green lines on many parts of the film. While the scanning and digital clean-up was done at Prasad under the supervision of L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, the grading, sound restoration and mastering was done at the lab in Bologna. Both Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani, the cinematographer of the film, have been involved in the restoration of the film.


RESTORATION CREDITS:

Restored by Film Heritage Foundation at Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd.’s Post – Studios, Chennai and L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, in association with Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. and the director Shyam Benegal.

Manthan was restored using the best surviving elements: the 35 mm original camera negative preserved at the NFDC-National Film Archive of India and the sound was digitised from the 35 mm release print preserved at Film Heritage Foundation.

Funding supported by Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.


SYNOPSIS: MANTHAN (THE CHURNING, 1976)

“Manthan” is a powerful film about the tempestuous winds of change that blow through a village when Dr. Rao (Girish Karnad) an idealistic veterinary surgeon from the city arrives to work with the locals to start a milk cooperative movement. The villagers, half of whom are Dalits, sell their milk to a local businessman Mishraji (Amrish Puri) who cheats them by paying a very low rate for the milk. The village headman (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), an upper caste man, is opposed to the idea as he does not want his higher social status diminished as is Bhola (Naseerudin Shah), the leader of the Dalits. He faces stiff resistance from the village headman (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and Mishraji, the exploitative dairy owner, insecure about losing their power to a cooperative, Bhola (Naseeruddin Shah), a lower-caste peasant  who views the city dweller with suspicion and Bindu (Smita Patil), a feisty milkmaid whose initial misgivings about the doctor blossoms into liking and support for his initiative.

His notions of equitable distribution of profits irrespective of class and caste and freedom from exploitative middlemen, churn up a maelstrom of mistrust, anger and resistance among the feudal landlords and the peasants, threatening the deep-rooted social hierarchy based on generations of discrimination.

When Dr. Rao assures fair payment to the villagers for their milk and starts earning their trust, this irks Mishraji who starts plotting against him. The politics in the village escalates and Bhola defeats the Sarpanch in the elections to become the village headman. The sidelined Pramukh conspires with Mishraji against Dr. Rao. Aided by Bindu’s husband, they force her to make an allegation in the Panchayat that Dr. Rao has raped her. Extremely saddened by the turn of events, Dr. Rao decides to complete the remaining work of the co-operative and leave the village. Bhola however carries on the work with the help of villagers, notably Bindu, yielding fruit to the brave efforts of Dr. Rao. The story plumbs the depths of despair as Dr. Rao faces false accusations and village politics, but ends on a high with a glimmering of hope as Bhola and Bindu continue the work begun by Dr. Rao as the idea of the cooperative slowly takes root.


CAST AND CREW DETAILS:

Manthan (The Churning), India, 1976, Shyam Benegal

134 mins, Colour, Hindi, English Subtitles, Aspect Ratio 1.37:1

Direction: Shyam Benegal, Story idea by: V. Kurien and Shyam Benegal, Screenplay: Vijay Tendulkar, Dialogue: Kaifi Azmi, Cinematographer: Govind Nihalani, Editor: Bhanudas Diwkar, Sound: Hitendra Ghosh, Music: Vanraj Bhatia, Art Director: Shama Zaidi, Production Control: G. B. Ghanekar, Producer: Shyam Benegal / Sahyadri Films for Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

Cast: Girish Karnad, Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Mohan Agashe, Sadhu Meher, Rajendra Jaspal, Abha Dhulia, Anjali Paigankar and the people of Sanganva