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Benegal’s restored ‘Manthan’ to premiere at Cannes

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The restored version of veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s 1976 film Manthan will be screened at the upcoming edition of the Cannes Film Festival, said Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder of Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) on Thursday.

Fronted by Smita Patil, the film was inspired by the pioneering milk cooperative movement of Verghese Kurien, who led ‘Operation Flood’ to transform India from a milk-deficient country to the world’s biggest milk producer and is credited for creating the billion-dollar brand Amul.

According to the Cannes Film Festival website, Manthan will be screened under Cannes Classics, a section created 20 years ago that features celebrations, restored prints, and documentaries.

Manthan is the third consecutive movie restored by the foundation to head to Cannes, one of the most prestigious film galas around the world.

FHF brought a restoration of G Aravindan’s Malayalam movie Thampu (1978) to Cannes Classics in 2022, followed by the restored Ishanou, directed by Manipuri auteur Aribam Syam Sharma — under the same segment last year.

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Dungarpur shared the update on his X page.

“Unbelievable Third year in a row at Cannes Film Festival …Film Heritage Foundation is proud to bring the Restoration of Shyam Benegal’s milestone film ‘Manthan’ produced by 500,000 farmers who gave rupees 2 to produce this film…I wish Smita Patil was here to see this… (sic)” the filmmaker and film archivist wrote in his post.

Co-written by Benegal and celebrated playwright Vijay Tendulkar, Gujarat-set Manthan is believed to be the first crowd-funded Indian film which was entirely crowdfunded by 500,000 farmers who donated Rs 2 each.

The film won two National Film Awards in 1977: for Best Feature Film in Hindi and for Best Screenplay for Tendulkar. It was also India’s official entry to the 1976 Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Its title song Mero Gaam Katha Parey, sung by Preeti Sagar, was later used as the soundtrack for Amul’s television commercial.

FHF is a Mumbai-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting the conservation, preservation, and restoration of Indian cinema.

At the gala, Indian cinema will also be represented by filmmaker Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine As Light in the Competition section, where it will vie for the top prize Palme d’Or, and Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know, a short film by the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students, in the La Cinef Competitive section.

The 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will open on May 14 and come to a close on May 25.

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