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Ad man to bring Manjunath back to life on celluloid

Ad man to bring Manjunath back to life on celluloid

Mumbai: Sandeep Verma, managing director of ICOMO Advertising Pvt Ltd, is making a movie on the life of slain Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Ltd employee Manjunath Shanmugam. He is looking for a producer but has one caveat — the copyright of the movie should be with the trust set up by the Indian Institute of Management Lucknow (IIML) alumni.

Manjunath Shanmugam Trust (MST) is founded by a group of IIML alumni to fight the case on behalf of the late IOC employee and to promote better governance. The trust had started an RTI (right to information) helpline and instituted an integrity award. The helpline, intended to improve governance in India by empowering the common man with knowledge of the RTI, is not functional now.

“One could seek information on personal dealings with government departments such as “why is my license delayed" or even matters of public expenditure such as “how has the road repair budget of Mumbai been allocated", says Akhil Krishna, Manjunath’s batchmate and a founding volunteer of the trust.

The helpline has been discontinued for the time being due to inadequate response from the public. Krishna attributes this to the lack of RTI awareness in the country.

The Integrity award, instituted in 2007, invites nomination of people with integrity from the public. Professor R P Singh, vice chancellor, Lucknow University, was the first to receive this award. Singh was credited with “cleaning up" of the Lucknow Univerity premises by driving away anti-social elements that were ruling the campus. The trust has been responsible for ensuring fast justice for Manjunath’s murder.

The Lakhimpur Kheri sessions court has given capital punishment to Monu Mittal and life imprisonment to seven others involved in the case. The convicts have appealed against the sessions court verdict in Allahabad High Court.

South Indian actor Siddharth of Rang De Basanti fame has signed on to play the lead in the film. “Look at the impact his death has had on people around him. Anjali Mullatti (an IIML alumnus, ten years senior to Manjunath) is just another intelligent professional doing her work. Why should she take the trouble of travelling from Mysore to Lakhimpur Kheri every month to attend the sessions court proceedings? She has not even met Manju," says Verma, the director of the film. “Manju has become larger than what he was. His life story needs to be told ," he adds.

Verma has co-written the script for Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi, a film about the Naxalite movement in India. "Manju’s death is motivating people around. He got the right values from his parents. The movie is an attempt to instill those values. I am looking for some co-production kind of an arrangement where the copyright will go to the trust. … I want the volunteers of the trust to be the spokespersons for this movie."

The movie has a budget of Rs5 crore. It can’t have a commercial release before the Allahabad High Court passes its verdict on Manjunath’s killer. “People might find it difficult to identify with Gandhi or Buddha because they were great people. It is easier to identify with Manju. He only did his job sincerely. Manju’s story needs to be told because if every man in India does his job sincerely, the country can achieve great progress," says Krishna of MST.

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