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Manthan: the first crowd-funded movie in India

There are many milestone movies in the history of Indian cinema. But the movie, which was produced by 5 Lakh farmers from Gujarat, stands out. In Gujarat, the year 1976 witnessed farmers arriving in large trucks and tractors, filling the talkies. It was not because a commercially hit movie was running there, but a film portraying these famers’ life had been screening there. The movie was produced through world’s largest crowd funding. Manthan is India’s first crowd funded film. Directed by veteran Shyam Benegal, Manthan told the story of Amul, a brand that fuelled White Revolution in India. It not only detailed the story of Dr. Varghese Kurien, a skilled entrepreneur who made Amul a great success, but beautifully blended shades of human characteristics, too.

Varghese Kurien was just 28 years old when he arrived the Anand in Gujarat in 1949. He convinced the farmers that they hold the ownership of the milk produced by them. Within a decade, Asia’s largest dairy unit with a production capacity of 20000 liters per day became a reality. Manthan unfolded the entrepreneurial journey of Dr. Kurien. The introductory scene features a train arriving at a railway station in the interiors of Gujarat. A young doctor named Dr. Rao, the protagonist, deboards the train. Shyam’s visual magic begins with that scene which depicts an Indian village in the 1970s

Dr. Rao enters the village that is occupied mostly by Dalit families who earn their living selling milk and other products. With his will power, Rao puts an end to the tyranny of Mishra Ji’s milk mafia. Amrish Puri appears as Mishra.

Manthan has an ensemble cast including Gireesh Karnad, Nasseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Amrish Puri and Anant Nag. It won the 1977 National Film Award for Best Feature in Hindi and Best Screenplay. Manthan was produced by Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. One would not believe, but the movie was produced with the help of 5 Lakh farmers who contributed Rs 2 towards the making. In every sense, Manthan is an iconic film. The Milk Co-Operative society built by Dr. Kurien breaking the religious barriers and eliminating exploitation of farmers, created a wave in society.  In many states, the film inspired cooperative societies to emerge in the dairy sector.

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