Archive - October 2015

Crowdfunding Pioneer Shyam Benegal on Gathering Funds For His 1976 Film ‘Manthan’

Source: Flickr

“I think there are many filmmakers who are turning to crowdfunding today, with good reason,” Mr. Benegal remarks. “It’s a question of whether people feel the film is worthwhile. Opportunities are much greater today, and there are many avenues today for filmmakers, especially because of the reach of the internet.”

His own 1976 film ‘Manthan’, on the White Revolution of India, was made thanks to the contribution of over half a million milk farmers in Gujarat in the mid-1970’s, a staggering show of solidarity that told the tale of their movement on the big screen.

Director of Manthan, 1976, Shyam Benegal. [Image: Wikiwand]

Director of Manthan, 1976, Shyam Benegal. [Image: Wikiwand]

The filmmaker is full of praises for Dr Kurien, the man behind Amul, and the pioneer of the movement which transformed India into the largest milk-producing country in the world.

“I had made a couple of documentaries for Dr Verghese Kurien, who redefined the story of milk production in the country,” he shares. “His intervention was incredible; he pioneered the milk producers’ co-operative movement, the first time something like this was being done on such a large scale.”

Dr. Kurien, Mr. Benegal relates, wanted very much for the story of how the milk co-operatives began, to be documented. “I knew Dr Kurien well, he was the boss of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. or GCMMF, and I had made two documentaries for him in the late 60’s, while I was still working for an advertising agency,” he explains. “He said he was very happy with them, but I realised that I was not. I felt that they were really preaching to the converted, they were being shown to people who already had co-operatives. We needed to reach out to the public at large, so that they could come to know about the largest, most successful co-operative movement in the world.”

Shyam Benegal (right) & Dr. Verghese Kurien (left). [Source: fakinghappinesscampaign.blogspot.com & plus.google.com]

Shyam Benegal (right) & Dr. Verghese Kurien (left). [Source: fakinghappinesscampaign.blogspot.com & plus.google.com]

“I was travelling all over Gujarat to capture the movement when I was working on the ‘Operation Flood’ documentaries,” he recalls. “I told Dr Kurien that I wanted to make a feature on the movement, based on what I’d witnessed over the course of my travels. He was all for it, and when it came to the matter of money to produce the film,  he came up with a suggestion that was so simple and marvellous, it was perfect.”

Dr. Kurien asked him how much money he would need, and when Mr. Benegal answered with a quote of Rs 10-12 lakhs (“Of course, it’s impossible to do that in today’s day and age,” he chuckles.), Dr Kurien reportedly said, “I have, at the moment, more than half a million farmers in Gujarat alone who are members of Amul Co-operative Societies.

“The milk farmers gather every morning and evening to sell their milk, and they are paid for the morning’s sales in the evening, and the evening’s sales, the next morning. Let me send a message to all the co-operative unions of Gujarat and ask them if the milk farmers would be willing, for just one morning, to accept Rs 2 less. They can then become producers of a feature film which tells their story. Why would they say no?”

Dr. Kurien’s proposal got a vote of approval from each and every one of those farmers, thanks to which the production of Manthan was made possible. Mr. Benegal pauses at this point to remark that while it’s all very well to make the film, there were a lot of other elements that required money as well – to make several prints, for distribution, publicity and for a theatrical release. There also needed to be an audience willing to pay money to see the film, in order to recover expenses.

“Dr Kurien made a call to a distributor and assured him that if he would release the film in theatres, he would personally see to it that he would have a full house at most shows,” Mr Benegal shares. “All the farmers came from their villages to see their own story on the big screen. It was incredible, the Times of India, Ahmedabad Edition, carried a whole story on this unique phenomenon – trucks and trucks of farmers with their families coming into cities such as Baroda, Ahmedabad, Mehsana… they were the first audiences of the film they’d helped produce.”

The film successfully covered its costs and made a small profit as well, telling their story far beyond their time. ‘Manthan’ was one of the few Indian films made which got distribution in different countries in South Africa, South America, Central America, as well as in China. Former PM Morarji Desai presented a copy of the film to the Soviet Union President at the time, and it was shown all over their country too. “These were the regions of the world which were curious about, and would benefit from, the creation of co-operatives,” Mr. Benegal explains.

To cap it all, Dr Kurien was asked to present this film at the United Nations in New York at the General Assembly. “He took me along, and I introduced the film and screened it in New York,” Mr Benegal smiles. “That’s the story of Manthan.”

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

It isn’t his only tryst with crowdfunding though. His second crowdfunding venture, Susman, was about handloom weavers. Funds were gathered for this, too, in a similar manner, by the different handloom co-operative unions all over the country. “Finally, in 1991, I made a film called Antarnaad, based on the Swadhyay movement, spearheaded by Pandurang Shastri Athavale,” Mr. Bengal explains.

“Crowdfunding is a very important means for Independent filmmakers, but a film cannot be self-indulgent,” he concludes. “There must be artistic work, or an attempt to create this, at any rate… and some social work, as well. Why else would people put money into it? Filmmakers have an obligation to return the money that they have been given, one way or another.”

Financial Aid To Grieving Farmers’ Widows By Nana Patekar Is Affecting Real Change

source---ohmyindia

[Want to be a part of this movement? You can contribute to the ‘Join Nana Patekar to Help Farmers’ campaign to aid the drought-struck farmers of Marathwada and their families.]

“The soul of India lies in its villages.”

-M.K. Gandhi

The news of farmer suicides in India has been splashed across headlines for years, a compounding plea for help for those who make up the backbone of an agrarian country like ours. Over 11% of suicides in India constitute of those by farmers who depend on an erratic monsoon for their livelihoods, are burdened with debt and who struggle continually to feed their families. Over 5, 650 farmer suicides were reported across the country in the past year, with the highest number reported in Maharashtra at a staggering 2, 568 tragic deaths.

Recently, actors Nana Patekar and Makrand Anaspure decided to take matters into their own hands and actually effect change. They visited over 300 families of farmers in districts in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, and offered distributed cheques of financial aid personally to the bereaved. A cheque of INR 15, 000 was given to each of the kin, along with a heartfelt plea not to surrender to the dire circumstances.

Source: thelogicalindian.com

Source: thelogicalindian.com

“All of us want to help, but most of us are not sure if the money we want to give will reach the right people. So, I decided to visit these people myself and help them,” he said. He also spoke about how ridiculous it was, that almost 70 years after independence, our government is still not able to provide over 75% of its population, highlighting the lopsided ‘development’ that India is undergoing.

“We need to take these things seriously. I feel it is time for a revolution. If a farmer can kill himself, tomorrow he can kill you. Look at the level of his frustration. Beware, this situation could become dangerous. Their helplessness could turn into rage, they might turn Naxalites. You are creating that kind of a situation. Just give them electricity and water, which is their basic right. Come on, they provide you bread,” Patekar told reporters later.

Source: Scoopwhoop

Source: Scoopwhoop

With his hands-on initiative, Nana Patekar inspired Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar too made a choice to contribute towards the well-being of drought-hit farmers and their families. Organised by Inspector General of Police Vishwas Nangre Patil, financial aid by way of cheques of INR 50, 000 were distributed in the Beed district to 30 widows who has lost their husbands tragically to the agrarian crisis.

“I spoke to Akshay about the drought in Marathwada and the plight of farmers initially during his film premiere,” Mr Patil said. “I showed him a video of how actors Nana Patekar and Makrand Anaspure were helping farmers. So that’s when he expressed his desire to help but he wanted to do it discreetly and silently.”

Akshay Kumar has reportedly earmarked a whopping INR 90 lakh to help over 180 families in the drought-struck region.

It is indeed inspiring to see such prominent personalities from creative fields contributing to important issues affecting our country, and combined with various campaigns on crowdfunding platforms, we hope that we can — through a global, crowd-sourced effort — affect positive change amongst those who are an integral part of our nation.

[Want to be a part of this movement? You can contribute to the ‘Join Nana Patekar to Help Farmers’ campaign to aid the drought-struck farmers of Marathwada and their families.]

 

TED Talk ‘The Art of Asking’ on Crowdfunding Creative Projects

source - archive.mjoy.ua

 “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

― Charles Dickens

Here at Ketto, we’re firm believers in pushing the most original creative projects, no matter how crazy it might sound at first. Our logic is — every great idea had its humble origins somewhere, right? To get started is the key to getting somewhere, and only then does one grow into their potential. More often than not, the creative entrepreneur’s going to need a little help to get by, at least at first. This is where crowdfunding can step in to save the day.

In our previous story ‘Crowdfunding: Musically Yours‘, we explored how artists like Vasuda Sharma and progressive metal band Skyharbour successfully crowdfunded their projects by shedding the red tape and sticking to real talk.

Today, though, we look at a different aspect of crowdfunding — the first, and the most important, the part where you actually reach out and asking for help. You have to be a thinker and a doer to have your dream project materialise, and most important of all, you need to communicate to the audience what your idea is, so they may join you in your journey.

In this inspiring TED Talk (the holy grail of entrepreneurial wisdom), Amanda Palmer speaks about ‘The Art of Asking’:

The reach of the internet  is like a three-tiered blessing. First off, it’s democratic enough to give space to any musician or artist who has the guts to put themselves out there and test the waters to see how their dream project will float. Secondly, it’s your friends, family and fans who are going to be contributing and circulating your project; they’re your first audience, so to speak.

Thirdly, the internet has made all sorts of collaborations possible. There’s been a total shift in the artist-fan relationship. Just imagine — as a fan, you can now contribute, on a pay-what-you-want basis, to exactly the kind of music you’d like in your headphones! Chances are, there are going to be several other perks involved as well.

Autographed album, anyone? If you believed in the idea from Day 1, it’s probably yours for the taking.

People aren’t mindreaders, and no one’s going to know the potential of your idea until you make the effort to open up to them and ask. For their opinions, for their help. (And yes, also for that autograph.) For fans and artists alike, the mantra should be ‘Ask, and you shall receive’.

Amanda Palmer said it best when she said, “Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

[Featured image credit: archive.mjuoy.ua]

Veteran Danseuse Tara Balgopal’s Campaign A Roaring Success

Image Credit: Meeta Ahlawat/The Hindu

[Want to do your own bit to help veteran performer Tara Balgopal dance again? You can contribute to her campaign here.]

Octogenarian Tara Balgopal’s countless medals and accolades, bestowed upon her decades ago by various Prime Ministers, are today coated with layers of dust and faded glory in her Rajouri House in Delhi . As we browse through these photographs of her now, there’s no mistaking the aching sadness that wells up, nor the acknowledgement that this graceful lady deserves much better. Most prominent of all is the desire to be able to help her attain a life fitting of her talent and calibre.

Source: orbitbs.com

Source: orbitbs.com

A Celebrated Performer of Noted Indian Dance Forms

In the 60’s, her mastery of traditional Indian dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Kathakali cemented her position as a cultural icon of the times. Unfortunately, it seems that that respect didn’t translate over the years in public memory; her contributions to the arts were forgotten altogether, leaving her in heart-wrenching poverty today.

Ms. Balgopal’s Contribution to Delhi University

Besides being a veteran danseuse, Ms. Balgopal also used to hold the admirable post of Reader in English at the Delhi University’s Rajdhani College, and in 1963, she went on to be the first Indian to conduct UG courses on All India Radio.

Source: The Logical Indian

Source: The Logical Indian

With such inspiring achievements to her credit, it seems particularly unjust that post-retirement, Tara was refused her due credits and benefits by the University, for which she is currently fighting a legal case. The University’s claim to have lost Ms. Balgopal’s files has further compounded the misery, rendering her case a casualty to red tape.

“They owe me Rs.2 crore as they paid me the dues of a Lecturer while I was a Reader. Now they tell me that I was never there,” said Tara Balgopal told The Hindu. “I have lost all my money in the case. My husband (a chartered accountant) used to fight the case on my behalf. He died three-and-a-half-years ago. I was given a lawyer from the National Woman’s Council. The Council pays him his fee but people tell me he doesn’t go to the court.”

Banks and insurance companies too joined the notorious bandwagon in withholding her funds as well as personal property. She has had to depend on the charity of her neighbours to a large extent, some of whom are rather indifferent to her plight — while others, kinder, bring over much-required food once in a while.

Source: Indiatimes.com

Source: Indiatimes.com

The Accolades & Association of the 1960’s

Old photographs of the veteran performer taken with the then heavyweights of Indian politics and the music industry lie strewn and yellowing around her dilapidated house. After her performance in the Parliament in 1960, there had even been a postal stamp issued by the Government of India in 1963 to honour her, and back in the day, she had accompanied Mahatma Gandhi in weaving on charkhas, and been a close friend of personalities the likes of Indira Gandhi, Nayantara Sahgal and Vijaya Laxmi Pandit.

Source: Indiatimes.com

Source: Indiatimes.com

Shrinking attention spans and the ever-rotating media spotlight have meant that many accomplished artists’ feats are often forgotten in their sunset years, but when the media’s eye did turn to Ms Balgopal’s current life of uncertainty, a certain Nikhil Sarup stepped up to turn good intentions to constructive action.

Real Talk: The Power of Crowdfunding In Affecting Change

Co-founder of LawRato.com, a Delhi-based legal advice startup, Mr Sarup offered her free legal aid and started a campaign on Ketto.org to crowdfund her living and medical expenses as well as those for the repairs needed to her house.

Arun, the painter who has been hired with the raised funds to fix up Ms Balgopal's house.

Arun, the painter who has been hired with the raised funds to fix up Ms Balgopal’s house.

Thanks to Mr Sarup’s campaign on the platform, over 360 backers, came together to successfully cross the goal of raising INR 6, 00, 000. With over a month left, her campaign has actually been overfunded in a tip of the hat to human benevolence, and the power of empathy.

We hope that she will now be able to continue to fight for the dues she has earned from the University years ago, and that she has the means live a life of dignity and comfort, as a legend like her deserves.

[Want to do your own bit to help veteran performer Tara Balgopal dance again? You can contribute to her campaign here.]

[Featured Image Credit: Meeta Ahlawat/The Hindu]

The Story Behind ‘SAFER’ — Smart Jewellery You’d Actually Wear

Source: ketto.org/safer

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Most women in urban India are no strangers to the worried ‘Text me when you reach, okay?’ from a friend or family member, especially if they’re travelling back home late at night. Thanks to Leaf Wearables, founded by a group of 5 individuals with a vision to change the world, that night-time commute just got a whole lot safer, and a lot less tiresome.

Source: ketto.org/safer

Source: ketto.org/safer

The Role of Crowdfunding in SAFER’s Journey

SAFER’s crowdfunding campaign on Ketto successfully raised INR 5, 00, 000 with the help of 123 backers who have contributed towards a cause at the intersection of wearable technology and women safety. Ladies, it seems like we now have a real chance to truly be independent without setting off a chain of frantic concern amongst our loved ones.

What is SAFER?

‘Safer, smart jewellery’ is how one of the co-founders of Leaf Wearables, Paras Batra, describes his product, an eye-catching, smart pendant — pairable with your mobile phone — that one can double-click the back of to send out a distress signal to your friends and family in case of an emergency. From that point, it’s easy to track the wearer’s location, in case they’re in need of help. The best part? This works on the internet, as well as on SMS, which makes it truly accessible. Paras’ team, including Chiraag Kapil, Manik Mehta, Ayush Banka and Avinash Bansal seem to have really gotten their final prototype right. This small pendant was born of a much larger idea, though, over a year ago.

Source: ketto.org/safer

Source: ketto.org/safer

The Incident That Sparked The Idea

“We started off working on a city-wide Wifi project in March 2014, which eventually didn’t work out because of government rules and regulations,” Paras recaps the journey for us. “I happened to be living in Munirka in Delhi at the time, as a student at IIT-Delhi. I was catching a bus back from there one evening, when I took a look around and realised how shady and unsafe the place, especially for women. This also happened to be the location of the Nirbhaya case.” Paras recalls protesting at India Gate after the horrific incident with thousands of outraged others, but realised at this point, that it was time to do something more tangible. He regrouped with his partners and that was the turning point — they started experimenting with wearable technology to reduce the communication gap between women in transit and to improve the response time, in case of an emergency. It is, after all, every citizen’s right to lay claim to a public space regardless of their gender.

Source: ketto.org/safer

Source: ketto.org/safer

The Various Prototypes

Telling us about some of the prototypes they worked on, he reflects that they had a lot of assumptions that would go on to prove wrong later on, a lot of experimentation before hitting the right note. “We realised that battery life was too low in the prototype that ran on GPS and 3G,” he recalls. “With each idea, we started making a small prototype and giving it to a group of users for the feedback.” Luck was on their side — as hardware like that hardly comes in cheap — and the Leaf team went on to emerge world champions in the Gitex Technology Week they attended, held in Dubai, that year to fund this trial-and-error process, supplemented by success in other business competitions as well.

SAFER: The Present & The Future

The final prototype is a classy, extremely user-friendly pendant you’re going to want to flaunt. Features like SAFERwalk, which enable a loved one to monitor your walk through unsafe areas, notifications in your app about calls from parents or friends, and the quirky ‘selfie’ feature make this an instant hit — what’s not to like, right, ladies?

Urban women in the metropolitan areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai, are going to be the first to enjoy this product, but Paras admits that their long-term aim is to make 1 million families safer by 2017. “SAFER is women-centric right now, because of the state of the country and the urgency of the need,” Paras elaborates. “We aim to create wearables for the elderly, for men and for children as well!” As for his expectations from crowdfunding, Paras is elated about the success about the campaign, but admits that his expectations were higher. “Perhaps it’s because of the response we’ve seen to international crowdfunding campaigns, or maybe it’s because the Indian community isn’t ready to pre-order a product they haven’t actually held in their hands and tried out before — we really hope that projects like ours are paving our way to a brighter crowdfunding future in India.” He concludes with an interesting point, “You are writing a success story right now on the crowdfunding campaign which met its goal, but I think it would truly qualify as a success once we sell a lot of our products, and have people use them in their day-to-day lives to hopefully make a real impact on society.” Technology has been getting closer and closer to us, physically, if you think about it. At first, it was on your desk, then your lap — the next step is to be able to wear technology as easily as you would your clothes. With SAFER, the Leaf team has made this notion an innovative reality.

By: Aditi Dharmadhikari