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  • Manthan is an extraordinarily powerful and intense depiction of social change. As it has been 15 years since I've seen this film, my recollection of details may not be completely accurate; but the story tells the struggle of Indian dairy farmers to gain a fairer share of the proceeds of their labor from the larger milk-processing companies to whom they sell their raw milk. While my recollection of factual details about this movie is limited, I do recall vividly the strong emotional and artistic impact Manthan had on me. It should be noted that director Benegal also made Ankur (The Seedling) which, with a completely different story, also incarnates the painful social changes India is undergoing as it moves from a more to a less feudal social structure -- and in both movies dealing with these themes without preachiness or pronounced ideological heavyhandedness.
  • Dr. Varghese Kurien left for his heavenly abode on 09th September, 2012 and I am late in paying my tribute to him. I am paying my tribute through this review which is of a movie whose Dr. Kurien himself was a part of.

    Hailed as the Milkman of India, Dr. Kurien was the pioneer of White Revolution in India which not only substantially increased milk production in India but also systematized its collection and distribution and a network of milk cooperative societies came into existence through the relentless efforts of Dr. Kurien. This compaign known as Operation Flood, created dairy cooperatives all over rural India ensuring that the milk producers get the right price of the product and are saved from the exploitation of the middlemen.

    However no good work could be (and can be) done smoothly in the feudalistic and exploitative set up of India. And that's shown in director Shyam Benegal's movie - Manthan (1976) whose story was given by Dr. Kurien himself. Renowned playwright - Vijay Tendulkar wrote its screenplay and legendary Shaayar - Kaifi Aazmi wrote its dialogs.

    Appearing to be inspired by the real life experience of Dr. Kurien himself, the story of Manthan (the churning) starts with the arrival of a vet, Dr. Rao (Girish Karnaad) in a small village, Sanganva (Gujarat). He has been deputed by the government to start a dairy cooperative in that area. His team includes Deshmukh (Mohan Aagashe), Chandavarkar (Anant Naag) etc. Quite naturally, the local dairy owner, Mishra (Amrish Puri) who also happens to be the money-lender of the village, is not finding this activity as compatible for his exploitative business. He buys the milk from the poor milkmen of the village at very less rates and makes exorbitant profit which is now in danger due to the forming of the cooperative society in the village. On the other hand, the sarpanch, i.e., the head of the local governing body of the village (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), sees the cooperative as another means to further his power and awe in the village. The major chunk of the village population is made by the lower caste people (HARIJANS) and they look upon not only these high profile exploiters but also the urban incomers as their enemies only, mighty but unreliable. Their leader is a good-hearted but arrogant and short-tempered youth, Bhola (Nasiruddin Shah).

    Quite naturally, the path ahead for the idealist young hero, Dr. Rao is thorny and stony. But he decides not to compromise with his ideals and not to get awed by the might of the opposers. He considers all human-beings as equal and endeavours to involve the HARIJAN milkmen in the cooperative society so that the purpose of the cooperative movement is served in the real sense. Bhopa first misunderstands him but once seeing his pious intentions, he joins the society with his caste brethren. Dr. Rao also gets ample moral support from a sensible and mature milkwoman - Bindu (Smita Patil). However where on one hand, Mishra is conspiring against Dr. Rao and the cooperative society, the sarpanch after losing the election of the chairman of the cooperative society to a HARIJAN youth, goes against them on the other. Mishra gets the support of the drunkard and wicked husband of Bindu in his evil scheme and he makes many moves simultaneously to jolt Dr. Rao and his endeavours and grind his own axe. The sarpanch finally arranges the calling back of Dr. Rao to his original place through a government order. However by this time, the poor as well as the oppressed masses have identified their collective strength through the inspiration of Bhola and they do not allow the cooperative society to lose its existence despite the return of Dr. Rao and his team.

    Manthan is technically superior and the complete rural milieu has got enlivened on the screen. Several real villagers have also acted in the movie. Every frame (and every character) appears to be real. The length of the movie is not much but whatever is there, the narrative proves to be thoroughly engrossing for the viewer. There is no laxity or boredom anywhere.

    Music director Vanraj Bhatia has made background score according to the mood of the movie. There is only one song - Mero Gaam Katha Paare, Jahaan Doodh Ki Nadiya Baahe in the movie for which Preeti Saagar won the Filmfare award for the best female playback singer. It's a Gujarati lyric penned by Niti Saagar. And now this famous song with a clip from the movie is always used as a part of the advertisement of Amul.

    The famous theatre personality, playwright and actor - Girish Karnaad has excelled in the lead role of Dr. Rao. The film also features another pillar of Indian theatre - Mohan Aagashe. Many actors who were introduced to the Indian cine-audience through the parallel cinema movement of the seventies are there in this movie, viz. Smita Patil, Nasiruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anant Naag etc. are there and everyone of them has left his / her mark through admirable performance. Late Amrish Puri with his peculiar dialog delivery amuses the audience despite being in a negative role.

    As rightly said by Bhola to Dr. Rao in the movie that it's easy to talk about ideals (or begin with them) but the real achievement is to stick to them even when everything goes against the protagonist. The idealism of most of the idealists loses its steam and even its breath midway because they are not strong from inside to endure the adverse times. All the same, the ending scene of Manthan declares loud and clear that an idealist may lose, the ideal doesn't.
  • How can anyone sit through this movie and not be moved by the plight of poor people the world over who have been controlled by tradition, superstition, power, and, greed. Every country in the world is reflected in this eloquently told story of poor Gujerati dairy farmers whose sole means of existence is based on their buffalo's milk and the control they are placed under by the higher castes of society. Shyam Benegal has told a very straightforward and real tale of the desire to reform the past and how difficult a task it is to bring change to a simple village under the spell of centuries of belief systems that rob the individual's chance of ever rising out of poverty and the control of a few. A gem and a very sobering film for all to consider.
  • neoseal9 June 2006
    I have seen this film about 15 years ago but still remember quite well, may be because I come from the region plotted in the film. The story of farmer's revolution is true and today in reality is the world's largest co-operative dairy AMUL. This film has actors, who at that time, were either newly graduated from Film Institute or had few films on their names but I think that is the charm, where the director could squeeze out the natural talent to show overwhelming expressions in the characters. In the later years most of these actors became kings of art cinema. The direction is superb; the songs and music are unique. I would recommend this film to everyone who wants "THE TASTE OF India".
  • An inspiring story based on the Milk Cooperative movement Amul in Gujarat. The story here about the various challenges faced in starting a cooperative. How the winning of trust, maintaining integrity and fairness, and true to purpose and values at all times are paramount. Both in winning the respect of the people, the eventual stakeholders who run the co-operative, and in being able to maintain one's sanity at the most challenging times. I'm happy also about how the movie ends in a positive note, how success and equality across caste and gender is still possible in our country
  • A remarkable, touching and memorable film. I saw it during my childhood but can never forget it. Shame it has only got a 6.8 on IMDb - probably because its not widely available on DVD and a lot of people have missed out on this gem of Indian cinema. I tried locating it on DVD during a visit to India but was not able to. (Will have to wait till BFI releases it I suppose.)

    One of the reviewers mentioned its there on the Amul website. I cant recommend it enough, please see this if you can. You are in for a treat.

    Smita Patil and Girish Karnad both have given very genuine, convincing performances.
  • My dad saw this movie when it released in theaters back in the 70's. He insisted that I watch the movie before any other. So, I saw the movie on Amul official website(you can watch it online) and was Stunned!!. It has been 35 years since this movie released but it is just timeless. Time can erode a movie technically but the emotional part if in its place remains intact. The acting is brilliant, so is the direction and technically also, it is quite good. Shyam Benegal takes you to Gujarat in the small village. You actually FEEL for the villagers and want to join them in their fight against Amrish Puri(the Milk Mafia). It is fair in length, there is never a boring moment and as the climax approaches, the tension actually gets to you. It is an emotional ride. I will watch it 10 times if they re-release it in theaters. A must watch.