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'Manjunath is the real hero'

Director Sandeep Varma talks about his film that is based on a real-life incident

Tell us about the film, Manjunath.
The film is based on a real story; it is about S Manjunath, who was killed for taking a stand against the oil mafia in Lakhimpur Kheri.

The place is part of the Indian hinterland where illegal gun shops have mushroomed and murders have become commonplace. No one seemed to take up his case, since Manjunath’s family was poor. So a stranger came forward to fight for him and his family; he even won the case. To me, this story was an inspiration. I wanted to tell everyone that Manjunath is the real hero. Hence, I made this film.

Sandeep Varma
Director Sandeep Varma

How did you cast for the film?
My casting was performance oriented. I wanted to focus on the character of Manjunath. I never wanted to cast established actors. After auditioning around 100 people, I found the ideal Manjunath when I was in Bangalore. His name is Satish Sarthi and he is from Mumbai. I conducted a four months’ acting workshop with him and we were then ready to shoot.

What challenges did you face during the making of the film?
Getting all the facts right wasn’t easy, so I did intensive research for two and half years. No one can point fingers at the story’s authenticity. I also faced some problems with funding; initially, I had to borrow money from friends and family. Later on, Viacom’s support saw me through.

What is the USP of the film?
Other than the story, the film’s USP is its music. Three members of the Delhi-based rock band Parikrama — Sonam Sherpa, Nitin Malik and Subir Malik — have given the music of the film, which has been widely appreciated. The songs have been sung by KK, Shankar Mahadevan and Papon.

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