Naseeruddin Shah did some of his most important film early in his career, with Shyam Benega. These included Nishant, Bhumika, Manthan, Junoon and Mandi, all landmarks in the careers if both the director and actor.

Naseer is full of appreciation for Benegal, “If it weren’t for Shyam I don’t know which way my career trajectory would have gone. He had faith in me at a time I needed it most, I cannot thank him enough.”

Naseer has seen the newly restored version of Manthan and is bowled over. “It’s magnificent! Even Shyam thinks it looks better than the original! If I had to restore any of my other films they would be Sai Paranjpye’s Sparsh and Ketan Mehta’s Bhavni Bhavai.”

Naseer Recalls shooting for Manthan. “It was a tough but fun shoot. At the time I was very into the ‘method’ and doing this film cured me of that ailment.It wasn’t possible to put myself in the shoes of a Gujarati milk farmer but I tried. And not only was the film greatly influential for milk cooperative movement but also to everyone’s astonishment a sleeper hit!”

Most of Naseer’s most important work co-starred with Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil. Which of the two did he prefer as a co-star? “Both of them were wonderfully generous and helpful co-actors. I wasn’t friendly on a personal level with either and it’s difficult to choose between the two.”

48 years since Manthan was first released. Where does Naseer places right up there in his dazzling oeuvre. “Along with Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Ke Liye I consider Manthan the most important film I’ve ever done.”

Manthan was perhaps the first crowd-funded film in India. Naseer sees very little eventuality of such projects in present times. “Rajat Kapoor is the only one I know of who makes crowd funded films but I’m sure there aren’t many others. At a time when the likes of Animal are the flavour of the year, it’s not difficult to understand why subjects like Manthan don’t attract film makers. Manthan was not made to fill anyone’s coffers but to spread the word about cooperatives, not exactly everyone’s cup of tea! In that respect it is probably one of the most successful films ever made.”