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MANTHAN

India, 1976 (MIFF 1978)

Director: Vijay Tendulkar

A group of young people, headed by a veterinary surgeon, arrive at an impoverished Indian village to help start a milk co-operative. They come up against two kinds of vested interest a private contractor who has been exploiting the villagers, and the village headman who hopes to use the co-operative to strengthen his own power.

The group tries to outflank the latter by enlisting the support of the majority of the poor people, who happen to belong to the Hanjan community, the untouchables The veterinary surgeon picks a natural leader from the people, Bhola who is initially suspicious of the outsiders.

Gradually, he comes to see the value of the co-operative, but caste conflicts develop, and the Hanjans' huts are burnt down The contractor seizes the opportunity to restore his influence over the villagers and things appear to have reverted to the traditional pattern of exploitation and acquiescence on the part of the peasants. The team is asked to leave the village, but finally Bhola intervenes.

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