Shyam Benegal is a renowned Indian director and screenwriter. He created, what is today referred to as ‘middle cinema’. His work has widely received critical acclaim in India as well as in the International Film Circuit. He was born on 14 December 1934 in Secunderabad. He is a cousin of
Guru Dutt. His paternal grandmother and Guru Dutt’s maternal grandmother were sisters. His career began in advertising in the year 1959. He was initially a copywriter. Over the years, he slowly rose to the position of a creative head. He directed over 900 advertisements before focusing his faculties on film-making. Benegal is known for films like Ankur, Nishant, Manthan and Bhumika, which were released in 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1977 respectively. His films and documentaries have been set in realistic contemporary scenarios and primarily revolve around topics like exploitation, rural empowerment, and social change. He has worked with actors like
Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil.
The movie Manthan was financed in a very interesting manner. Five lakh members of the milk co-operatives in Gujarat contributed Rs. 2 for the production of the film, which is themed around the dairy industry of Gujarat. Thus, the members became the film’s producers. Benegal taught mass communication techniques between 1966 and 1973. He was chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune during 1980-1983 and 1989-1992. His contribution to television has been immense. He directed the serial Yatra (1986) for the Indian Railways. He was the creative force behind the 53 episode television serial called
Bharat Ek Khoj (1988) based on Jawaharlal Nehru’s book, Discovery of India.
He was one among the members of the jury at the 14th and 31st Moscow International Film Festival held in 1985 and 2009 respectively. He gave him the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. He was presented the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement in 2005.