A gift for aam aadmi

Benegal's new film hopes to draw MPs? understanding of socio-economic realities, writes Vinod Sharma.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2006 15:49 IST

AT 71, Shyam Benegal, the father of parallel cinema is preparing to deliver another masterpiece. The concept should attract the beneficiaries of first generation economic reforms as much as the aam aadmi, still awaiting his share of the promised largesse.

And to give shape to the idea, Benegal, recently nominated to Rajya Sabha, hopes to draw from fellow MPs’ understanding of India’s socio-economic realities. Christened Mahadev, the film is about an obscure village untouched by modernity where 21st century dawns with television.

“I've planned it as a comedy and am looking for funds,” says the maker of Bharat Eik Khoj. Not the least cynical about the political class, he’s convinced he has as much to give as to gain from his peers in the Council of States: “I'm in marvellous company.

These are people of high caliber.” A patient listener in the Budget Session, Benegal picked up his first impressions in debates on the General Budget, Railways, panchayati raj, rural development and Indo-US nuke deal. He singled out for special mention — and praise — speeches by Mangani Lal Mandal (panchayati raj), P.C. Alexander (rural development), Dr K. Kasturirangan (rail budget) and Nilotpal Basu (nuclear deal).

“It felt like being in school again, yes, one's first school.” That's how he summed up his first brush with Parliamentarians, among whom he hadn’t expected to sit in a 100 years until Sonia Gandhi called on a February morning to ask: “Would you accept a nomination to the Rajya Sabha?” In the middle of breakfast, Benegal said yes without thinking. “It was an unbelievable offer that struck me dumb. I couldn't even ask as to why I was chosen.” But now that he's there, he intends to strike a balance between what he calls his “vocation and evocation” to be a useful addition to the Upper House without giving up film-making, his first love.

On this count, he also has to live down the image Lata Mangeshkar gave Bollywood, and to some extent nominated members, by her chronic absenteeism. In contrast, Benegal made his maiden intervention in the budget session in a discussion on the I&B ministry: “Cinema and TV are on a high growth trajectory. There’s a lot to be said. I spoke as I had a few points to make.”

First Published: Mar 26, 2006 15:49 IST