The financing for this film was crowdsourced before crowdsourcing became a thing.
The title sequence of Shyam Benegal's fourth film Manthan (1976) includes the line "500,000 farmers of Gujarat present". That's the number of farmers who produced the film. Each farmer of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Federation contributed two rupees for the production. Made on a budget of Rs 10 lakh, the film may well be the first feature in the world made without the involvement of a production house.
The idea came from Verghese Kurien, the man behind Operation Flood – the revolution that made India the largest producer of milk in the world. When Benegal set his story against the background of the milk cooperative movement, but was unable to find a producer, Kurien suggested that farmers contribute to the making of the film.
When the movie was released, the same farmers contributed to recoup their investment by watching it in theatres with friends and family.
Playwright Vijay Tendulkar wrote the screenplay. Poet Kaifi Azmi wrote the dialogue. Preeti Sagar sang the very popular song Mero gaam katha parey. Manthan won National Awards for best film and screenplay, and was also India’s official submission for the Academy Awards.
The film is a fictionalised account of the movement where a veterinary surgeon, Dr Rao (Girish Karnad), visits a village with the aim of starting a Milk Co-operative society. He meets the local businessman Mishraji (Amrish Puri playing a milk-drinking villain) and the Sarpanch (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) but they don’t want him to make the villagers self-reliant. With the help of Bindu (Smita Patil) and Bhola (Naseeruddin Shah) he is able to create what is today more popularly known as brand Amul.
One of Bhola’s lines in the film – "Sisoty apni hai, apni (It is our society)" – is believed to have inspired ITC to start the e-choupal initiative to link rural farmers digitally for agricultural reform.