Utpal Borpujari

December 2, 2009

Whistleblower Manjunath’s life story to come alive on the big screen

By Utpal Borpujari

When IIM-Lucknow alumni and young Indian Oil Corporation executive Manjunath Shanmugam was shot dead on November 19, 2005 for ‘daring’ to seal two petrol pumps selling adulterated fuel in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, it created a national hue and cry.

The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust, formed by his friends IIM and well wishers across IIMs and outside, not only took up the case in court but also created a nationwide movement against corruption that is still continuing.

Now, the movement is all set to go the next level with a young filmmaker deciding to tell Manjunath’s inspiring story to the world, and particularly to the youth of India.

Simply titled Manjunath,  the Hindi film budgeted at Rs three crore will be shot most likely in locations in Rajasthan because director Sandeep A Varma, a Mumbai-based advertising industry professional, thinks it would be too risky to shoot the film in real locations in Lakhimpur Kheri where the adulteration mafia is still highly active.

Some parts will also be shot in Kolar Gold Fields area where the murdered whistleblower spent his childhood.

“Manjunath’s parents, who live in Kolar, have given me their blessings, because they feel the story of their son would reach many more people if it is told through a film, more so because some people had even commented that he was a fool to ‘unnecessarily’ take on the mafia,” Varma told Deccan Herald here.

Varma has brought the project to the Film Bazaar India’09 organised by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) on the sidelines of the 40th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) seeking to attract co-producers from abroad. Already, NFDC has decided to join hands with the project taking around 30 per cent stake in it, he says.

Varma developed the project after he got inspired with the young MBA’s life story during his research to make spots for the Trust. “What really inspired me was that people who had not even known him personally had come forward to join the movement for justice,” he says.

The director believes that the film would find international resonance as it refers to global issues like fuel, environment, pollution and even class conflict, the last bit coming from the fact that Manjunath had come up to reach where he was the hard way, despite belonging to a poor family belonging to a reserved community.

“Manjunath is more than a person – he is a concept – and I want to tell his story to the urban youth in a way that will connect with them. I will use music as a strong element in the film as Manjunath was part of a band in IIM and was a very jovial character,” says Varma.

“It will be an inspirational film, not a depressing one, with the underlying theme being what a youth can do to change the society. It is a good versus evil story that was the core theme our epic Ramayan, and my story will have a positive ending, which is why it will go beyond his death,” he says.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 28-11-2009)


September 5, 2009

Konkani film in Discovery section of TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will get a taste of Indian cinema spanning genres this time, with The Man Beyond the Bridger, a Konkani film set in the dense forests of Goa-Karnataka border, under the spotlight in the ”Discovery” section showcasing new talents.
Internationally acclaimed photo journalist Dilip Mehta, whose sister Deepa Mehta has been a regular name at the TIFF, will see the world premiere of his debut fiction film Cooking With Stella, which stars Seema Biswas in the title role.Two Bollywood productions, Oscar-nominated director Ashutosh Gowarikar’s What’s Your Rashee and Anurag Singh-directed Dil Bole Hadippa from Yash Raj Films, will also have their world premieres at the festival.“The Man Beyond the Bridge (Paltadacho Munis), produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) and directed by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar, will have five screenings at the prestigious festival which is considered only second to Cannes in terms of size.

This is the first fiction film by Shetgaonkar, who received the National Award for Best Debut Non-feature Film at the 52nd National Film Awards and also the Golden Conch at Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in 2004 for his documentary A Seaside Story.

The film is described as a gentle romance that also highlights environmental issues and a nuanced view of village dynamics in the region.

Incidentally, the film was part of the Script Lab organised by the NFDC at the Film Bazaar 2007 during the IFFI in Goa two years ago. Shetgaonkar also had got a grant by the British Council, India, for the screenplay.

Mehta’s film, which will have a gala presentation on September 16, was shot completely in Delhi and is a lighthearted tale of a diplomat couple’s interactions with a wily cook from Kerala.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 05-09-2009)


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