From mortgaging his house to seeking funds from friends and family, Sandeep Varma crossed various hurdles to bring on the big screen the story of Manjunath Shanmugam, an Indian Institute of Management graduate killed for speaking out against corruption. The first-time director says he found immense “cinematic potential” in the story.
At a time when the Bollywood calendar seems to be near-crowded with biopics on iconic names like Milkha Singh, Mary Kom, Bhupen Hazarika, Kishore Kumar and Dara Singh, “Manjunath” is Mr. Varma’s humble effort to bring alive an ordinary officer’s extraordinary courage to fight corruption.
“It was a story worth telling,” he said as he recollected the process of making the film, which will be released by Viacom18 Motion Pictures on April 25.
Manjunath’s story grabbed headlines in 2005. An executive with the Indian Oil Corporation, he was killed on November 19, 2005, allegedly after he threatened to revoke the licence of a Lakhimpur Kheri petrol pump owner for selling adulterated fuel.
Mr. Varma started toying with the idea of making a film in 2008. He got more involved with his story when he started making posters, leaflets and audio-visuals for The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust.
“There was a curiosity aspect about the case. I asked a few people: ‘Why do you think this happened to Manju?’ People said he was naive, but that ran false — he was in IIM, worked in U.P. for three years. He knew where he was working and he knew the repercussions of what he did.
“I find it extremely inspiring that someone as young as Manju (27) took on such a job knowingly, he did the right thing, repeatedly putting his life at risk. I felt it was a story worth telling — of a real life hero,” Mr. Varma, an ad filmmaker based in Mumbai, told IANS over the phone.
He invested 25 per cent of the “medium budget” himself, mortgaged his house and sought funds from his friends, family and Manjunath’s batchmates to bring the film to life. He also found solace in the fact that actors like Divya Dutta and Yashpal Sharma agreed to work for a nominal fee.
It was a year ago that Viacom18 Motion Pictures came on board. Mr. Varma is now confident that the movie will get a good release window and that it will be promoted well.