Manthan: Half-century-old Shyam Benegal film gets new lease of life at Cannes

Cannes, (Thestates.news) The world of cinema has welcomed the return of a half-century-old Indian film nearly lost following decades of decay. ‘Manthan’, directed by celebrated filmmaker Shyam Benegal, received a warm applause at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened in a section devoted to restored films on Friday.
The 1976 film, which was given a fresh lease of life at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory in Bologna, one of the world’s finest film laboratories in Italy, and the Prasad Labs in Chennai, is part of the Cannes Classics section this year.”The film was in a bad condition. The restoration was a painstaking process that took one-and-half years,” said Mumbai-based filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, whose Film Heritage Foundation, has restored ‘Manthan’.

“Benegal told me the restored film was better than what he shot,” said Dungarpur at the world premiere of the restored movie held at the Buñuel Theatre.Among those present at the premiere was actor Naseeruddin Shah, who plays a villager in the film produced by Gujarat farmers who contributed two rupees each in 1976 in a rare crowd funded project in Indian cinema.

“The film was produced with the contribution from 500,000 milk farmers in Anand, Gujarat. Nobody gave the film any chance because it had no dance and action scenes,” said Shah.
“‘Manthan’, however, turned out to be a box office hit when it was released in 1977,” said Shah. “It was my second feature film.”The story of the birth of a farmers’ collective in Gujarat, which became Amul (Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation), the film was conceived by Benegal along with Varghese Kurien, the architect of Operation Flood, the movement that launched a revolution in milk production in India.

“The film’s success was due to actors like Smita Patil, Girish Karnard, cinematographer Govind Nihalani, and music composer Vanraj Bhatia, who are no longer with us in this world today,” said Shah.”The film reflects the social history of India at a significant period in the ’70s,” said Cannes Classics head Gérald Duchaussoy.”‘Manthan’ is one of the films that truly represents the people of the country,” said Dungarpur.

‘Manthan’ is the third successive year a restored Indian film is in the Cannes Classics category. In 2022, the year India was the Country of Honour at Marché du Film, the Cannes film market, the 1970 Bengali film, ‘Pratidwandi’ (‘The Adversary’) by Satyajit Ray and G Aravindan’s Malayalam film ‘Thampu’ (‘The Circus Tent’) were part of Cannes Classics. Last year, Manipuri director Aribam Syam Sharma’s 1990 Meitei language film, ‘Ishanou’ (‘The Chosen One’), was the only Indian restored film in Cannes Classics.

‘Manthan’, ‘Thampu’ and ‘Ishanou’ had all been restored by the Film Heritage Foundation. “It’s a hat-trick of films for restored films in Cannes Classics from India in the last three years,” said Duchaussoy.”It was a tough process,” Dubgarpur said about the restoration of the film. “There was no sound negative. The print had turned green and yellow from mould. The colour had faded,” he added. “It was the toughest restoration we have done so far.”

Also present at the premiere of the film in Cannes were Nirmala Kurien, the daughter of Varghese Kurien, Amul managing director Jayen Mehta and Prateik Babbar, the son of Smita Patil. (UNI)