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Cannes 2024: Naseeruddin Shah feels courageous films on religion should be made, calls it 'most harmful thing'

Updated on: 19 May,2024 11:54 AM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

Naseeruddin Shah visited Cannes for the screening of Shyam Benegal's 1976 film 'Manthan' that starred him and Smita Patil

Cannes 2024: Naseeruddin Shah feels courageous films on religion should be made, calls it 'most harmful thing'

Naseeruddin Shah

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Cannes 2024: Naseeruddin Shah feels courageous films on religion should be made, calls it 'most harmful thing'

Friday evening saw a French theatre in Cannes reverberating with the magic of Indian storytelling - courtesy of Shyam Benegal's classic 'Manthan'. Starring late Smita Patil and actor Naseeruddin Shah, 'Manthan', which 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', created waves at the ongoing 77th edition of Cannes Film Festival with its premiere

The screening of 'Manthan' was attended by Naseeruddin Shah, his wife Ratna Pathak Shah, Prateik Babbar, actor and son of Smita Patil, Nirmala Kurien, daughter of the legendary Dr Verghese Kurien, Father of the White Revolution, Anita Patil Deshmukh and Manya Patil Seth, sisters of Smita Patil, and Dr Jayen Mehta, Managing Director, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd., the producers of the film.

At the French Riviera while talking to Brut India about his feelings about the film's screening, nearly 50 years later, Shah said, "It felt unreal to me. I have always seen the red carpet ceremony either on video or in photographs. I have seen all these lovely ladies parading themselves in their gorgeous costumes. I never dreamt I'd be a part of that one day. So my wife and I decided to keep it as simple as possible. And of course, it was a terribly emotional experience. Because there were so many friends who were in the film. Girish was a friend and my teacher. He was the director of FTII. Smita was a dear friend and so was Amrish. None of them are there any longer. So it was a moving experience, I could hardly hold back the tears. And I find that the film has really stood the test of time."

Further, when asked how he would approach the character today, the senior actor said, "I'd probably play it with a lot more awareness of the situation and  little more control over the emotions of the character."

He added, "The curse of the caste system is unfortunately still around and still affects millions of our lesser privileged citizens in our country. And it is a pity that people adhere to it so strongly still. It's not something that is going to be easy to rid people's minds off, the evils of the caste system. I hope it made a statement. I think it did make a statement regarding that. It did make statements on unity of those who are oppressed of all of them getting together."

The actor was also asked to choose one social issue that he would pick to make a film upon in today's time and he said 'religion'. "I think courageous films should be made about this factor, which seems to be on all our minds and which to my mind is one of the most harmful things that has happened to humanity. I would probably choose that. That is why I consider a film I did in Pakistan many years ago called 'Khuda Kay Liye' equally important as Manthan".

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