A panel discussion revolving around the life and actions of Shanmughan Manjunath,an IIM Lucknow graduate who lost his life fighting the oil mafia in UP during his stint as a marketing manager for the Indian Oil Corporation(IOC) in 2005 was held at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) on Thursday managed to spark a debate on the relevance of studying ‘social impact’ of corporate decisions at the IIMs.
The discussion, part of a five-city series based on the movie ‘Manjunath’ that depicts the real-life story of this unsung hero, saw eminent speakers like Manoj Sashidhar IPS, Joint CP- Ahmedabad, Pavan Mamidi, Faculty of Business Policy at IIMA, Raghvendran Manjunath, brother of Manjunath, Satiiyash Saarathy Sasho who plays Manjunath in the film and Sandip Verma, the director of the film, discuss Manjunath’s actions in the backdrop of rampant corruption in the country.
Even as the panel deliberated on what path youngsters should take when faced with challenges similar to the one faced by Manjunath, IIMA faculty Pavan Mamidi said,”This classification of Manjunath as an ‘IIM product’ is highly problematic… and this attempt to co-brand IIMs with moral credibility of Manjunath should not be done if it is being attempted. Manjunath was bigger than IIMs and we should get over this fetish for IIMs and degrees. I’m not sure if any institution can teach students to choose what path to take in life. He (Manjunath) would have done what he did regardless of whether he had been an IIM student.”
Giving his take on the topic, Manoj Shashidhar, IPS said, “I feel that for the IIMs that are like ‘vanguard of corporate India’ and also since IOC represents a bit of government and corporate India, it is important to understand the role of whistleblower and importance of corporate governance here.+ Social impact which means how your decisions can impact people can be a great value addition to the ‘number crunching’ faculties you employ here as B-school students. This is important in a society which is today increasingly utilitarian to bring out the
“Social impact which means how your decisions can impact people can be a great value addition to the ‘number crunching’ faculties you employ here as B-school students. This is important in a society which is today increasingly utilitarian to bring out the humane side of things… I feel the story also got picked up by the media also had to do with him having gone to the IIM , because here was a young boy who had everything going for him and who later gave it all up.”
While fielding a query posed by an IIMA student on whether having a brand name like IIM gives one the luxury to walk away from making difficult choices, director of the biopic Sandip Verma said, “IIMs did not evoke much to put courage into him…From my research I feel the role of Manjunath’s family was critical to evoking that part of him. While speaking to his professor at IIM, he mentioned a classroom exercise where Manjunath had asked his professor ‘why are we not taught to find out the social impact of our decisions?’ He in fact repeated a year at IIM and later went to Aurobindo Ashram to clear his mind and start afresh.”
The filmmaker also shed light on little-known details on Manjunath’s life like the fact that the he was part of his college rock band or that his parents and brother knowing the grave dangers to his life had visited him two weeks prior to his death. “For me Manjunath was a paradigm shift as he was different from typical B-school student. It was a challenge for me to shoot the entire movie in Lakhimpur, UP where Manjunath lived. However during the filming even the spotboys and many from production crew didn’t know we were shooting Manjunath’s story and the clapboards had the name of a love story instead. I was even offered a fair bit of money before the movie’s release which would have considerably dimmed my financial burdens not to release it, but it was a privilege for me to be making it,” Verma added.
Raghavendran Manjunath, Manjunath’s brother, said, “Sudha Murthy (Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation) had called me up after she saw me crying on news channels and offered me Rs 5 lakhs but I told her that I didn’t want the money and just wanted justice as I knew my brother had done no wrong.”
Even as the cinematic biopic released this May will premiere on television later this month on Manjunath’s death anniversary; a series of similar such interactive discussions will be held in Indore, Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai which will be attended by renowned social activists and civil servants to pay a tribute to the unsung hero.