The fight against corruption claims many victims as I learnt from watching Manjunath. The last screen was full of names of people who had been shot, stabbed, run over by cars; all because they dared to raise their voice against wrong doing and injustice.
Manjunath was one such brave soul who decided that he was not going to be cowed down by threats from people who adulterated petrol with kerosene. He sealed one such petrol pump in a remote area in UP and was killed by the petrol pump owner as revenge. However, the murderer and his accomplices didn’t account for the fact that his IIM Lucknow batch mates as well as students and alumni from other IIMs would take up his cause and fight for justice. They set up the Shanmugham Trust in his name and fought the case which resulted in the accused getting the death sentence and life imprisonment. The Shanmugham Trust formed by a pan IIM group now fights for improving governance in public life. It has also instituted The Manjunath Shanmugam Integrity Award, which carries a citation and an Rs.One Lakh Cash Award; to honour those who have reported and worked to rectify systemic corruption.
I had to tell you about the Trust because the movie doesn’t focussing instead on Manjunath’s personal journey. It is more an elegy for a much loved person rather than a docudrama on the actual events and the outcry that followed and which led to the formation of the Trust. I think that highlighting these aspects would have furthered the cause of the Trust by spreading awareness about it. However, as a movie on a brave young man who gave up his life for the Truth, it is stirring in itself.
The movie takes us through Manjunath’s years at IIM Lucknow, his run in with the goons due to which he has a mental breakdown and his final resolve to fight. It also touches upon the issue of reservations in college admissions. In one powerful scene where he accuses his batch mate and now colleague at the Oil Company of running away from the problem, his friend shouts back at him saying he worked hard to get his seat unlike Manjunath who came in through reservations. The movie plants the idea in our heads that perhaps it was his quest for an identity for himself that drove him to become a Truth seeker. He didn’t want to be a loser and was willing to take on a powerful mafia to prove himself.
The movie could have been better paced. The first half till the interval establishes his personality and gives us an idea of his relationship with his parents and his friends. The actual fight against the mafia and his murder are dealt with efficiently enough. The fight for justice for Manjunath is the weakest part of the movie. It doesn’t have enough strength or sense of outrage and is glossed over almost apologetically. I wonder why but put I guess the Director’s focus was not on that aspect. I wish it had dealt with this more forcefully to leave a stronger imprint on our minds.
The movie remains more a tribute and an offering of love for a brave and much loved soul that has passed on than a movie on the fight for justice. Should you watch it? Yes. Most definitely. One, to honour the memory of a young man who stood up for what is right. Two, to learn to carry the fight against wrongdoing forward, in whatever small way we can. That is the only way that Manju’s death can be justified.view less