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Restored version of Shyam Benegal’s Manthan starring Smita Patil to premiere at Cannes Film Festival 2024

en Bollywood News Restored version of Shyam Benegal’s Manthan starring Smita Patil to premiere at Cannes Film Festival 2024

Released in 1976, Manthan (Hindi for "The Churning") is a film that explores the challenges and triumphs of social change in rural India.

Film Heritage Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur has joined hands with Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. to restore veteran Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s national award-winning film Manthan which starred the late iconic film actress, Smita Patil. The 4K restoration of the 1976 film has been selected for the official red-carpet world premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in May 2024. Noteworthily, Manthan is the only Indian film to be selected under the Cannes Classic section of the festival this year. The film premiere will be attended by Naseeruddin Shah, the family of the late Smita Patil, the producers of the film and Film Heritage Foundation’s Shivendra Singh Dungarpur.

Restored version of Shyam Benegal’s Manthan starring Smita Patil to premiere at Cannes Film Festival 2024

Restored version of Shyam Benegal’s Manthan starring Smita Patil to premiere at Cannes Film Festival 2024

Manthan, a fictionalized version of the beginnings of the extraordinary dairy cooperative movement that transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world’s largest milk producer inspired by Dr. Verghese Kurien, the father of the White Revolution, is also India’s first crowd-sourced film produced by 5,00,000 dairy farmers who contributed Rs. 2 each towards the production of the film. Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director, Film Heritage Foundation states, “I am so delighted that Film Heritage Foundation will have a red-carpet world premiere of another one of our restorations of an Indian cult classic at the Cannes Film Festival. The restoration of a Shyam Benegal film has been on the 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. The restoration process has been an incredible experience, especially working so closely with Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani to painstakingly bring the film back to life. Almost half a century later, the power of the narrative and the compelling performances of the actors, especially Smita Patil, remains undiminished. I wish she was here to see the beauty of the restoration.”

Shyam Benegal states, “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 500,000 farmers funded it 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.”

Naseeruddin Shah states, “I started my career as an actor with ‘Nishant’ followed by ‘Manthan’, both directed by Shyam Benegal. Manthan was a runaway success when it was released almost 50 years ago and it is a film that is remembered even today. I remember that during the shooting of 'Manthan,' I lived in the hut, learnt to make cow dung cakes and milk a buffalo. I would carry the buckets and serve the milk to the unit to get the physicality of the character. I am so glad that the Film Heritage Foundation has restored this remarkable film and that this small film made with the support of the farmers has been restored with so much love and care. It is thanks to the persistence, hard work and efforts of the Film Heritage Foundation that the film will be premiered in its second life, as it deserves to be, at the Cannes Film Festival and I am so glad that I will be there to present it myself.”

Govind Nihalani states, “It is remarkable that the Film Heritage Foundation is restoring Manthan nearly fifty years since it was made. Being involved in the restoration has been an emotional experience. It has taken me back to 1976 when the entire unit lived like a family in the village of Sanganva in Gujarat for 45 days during which the film was shot. The shooting was challenging because we had to use a patchwork of different film stock– Eastman and Gevacolor besides Kodak, 35 mm for the film and 16 mm for the film within the film. I began my career as a cinematographer with Shyam Benegal first shooting ad films and then his early feature films. We’ve had an immensely creatively satisfying relationship over the years as Shyam involves you as a partner in the creative process of the film and not just as a cameraman. I am so happy to hear that the restoration of the film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this year.”

Presenting at the Cannes Film Festival for the third time in a row, the Film Heritage Foundation has previously premiered Thamp̄ (2022) and Ishanou (2023) at the prestigious film festival.

Film Heritage Foundation used the best-surviving elements for the restoration – the original 35 mm original camera negative and the 35 mm release print preserved at the NFDC – NFAI. Unfortunately, the sound negative was not available. The sound was digitized from the 35 mm release print preserved at the Film Heritage Foundation. The film elements were repaired by the Film Heritage Foundation conservators and the scanning was done in Prasad Lab in Chennai. They 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 were 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.

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., the cinematographer Govind Nihalani and the director Shyam Benegal. Funding supported by Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

Released in 1976, Manthan (Hindi for "The Churning") is a film by director Shyam Benegal that explores the challenges and triumphs of social change in rural India. Set against the backdrop of a village struggling with poverty and exploitation, the film chronicles the arrival of Dr. Rao (Girish Karnad), an idealistic veterinarian, who attempts to establish a milk cooperative movement.

The narrative unfolds in Sanganva, a village rife with social inequalities. The villagers, particularly the Dalit community (considered "untouchables" in the caste system), are forced to sell their milk at meagre prices to Mishraji (Amrish Puri), a local businessman with a monopoly on the dairy trade. The village headman (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), representing the upper caste, upholds the status quo, fearing a loss of power if the established social hierarchy is disrupted. Bhola (Naseeruddin Shah), the leader of the Dalit community, initially views Dr. Rao with suspicion, a sentiment echoed by Bindu (Smita Patil), a strong-willed milkmaid.

Dr. Rao's vision is one of equitable distribution of profits, free from the exploitation of middlemen. This radical idea disrupts the existing power structures, sparking mistrust, anger, and resistance. The village headman and Mishraji, threatened by the potential loss of control, actively oppose the cooperative movement. Bhola's initial scepticism gradually gives way to cautious support as Dr. Rao's commitment to fair treatment becomes evident.

As Dr. Rao gains the trust of the villagers, particularly Bindu, Mishraji resorts to underhanded tactics. He exploits the existing social divisions, manipulating Bindu's husband to fabricate a false accusation of rape against Dr. Rao. Devastated by the betrayal, Dr. Rao contemplates leaving the village. However, Bhola, inspired by Dr. Rao's vision, steps forward to continue the cooperative's development. With the villagers' support, and Bindu's eventual vindication, the cooperative flourishes, offering a glimmer of hope for a more just future.

Manthan is a richly layered film that transcends the boundaries of a mere social commentary. The stellar cast delivers powerful performances, bringing depth and complexity to their characters. The cinematography by Govind Nihalani captures the stark beauty of rural India, while the music by Vanraj Bhatia complements the narrative effectively.

ALSO READ: Nawazuddin Siddiqui applauds Smita Patil’s enduring beauty; says, “The West was drawn to her”

More Pages: Manthan Box Office Collection


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