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Maharashtrian Social Activist hero comes to our big screen

Shailesh Bagwe

Shailesh Bagwe

Auckland, May 15, 2024


‘Satyashodhak’ on June 15 at Events Cinemas Newmarket, Auckland

Organised by the Auckland-based Communitey Forrum under its ‘Rising Stars’ banner, the film will be premiered at Events Cinemas, located at Level Four, 309 Broadway, Newmarket. 

Sandeep Kulkarni and Rajshri Deshpande, the two lead stars of the film, will attend the premiere and meet their fans.

Mr Kulkarni plays the role of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, a revolutionary leader of Maharashtra, while Ms Deshpande performs the role of the late leader’s wife Savitribai Phule.

Communitey Forrum Ltd aims to improve ties between the creatives of both countries by

bringing films, shows, documentaries, series, and famous artists. Our goal is to premiere this impactful film in New Zealand, highlighting the revolutionary work of Mr Phule and Ms Phule and the forthcoming premier hopes to bridge Indian and New Zealand Cinemas and foster relationships between the two countries. The event will bring bureaucrats, dignitaries, and creatives, together, to demonstrate Indian excellence in filmmaking and enhance intellectual and business connections.

Great Social Reformers

‘Satyashodhak’ is a biopic, based on Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule. This film showcases their struggle, and the history of great social reformers to create a new generation of bold and progressive India.

The couple has shown the right path of education for women, no matter how difficult the situation was and fought against the old social customs and subjugating women to slavery. As well as a champion of the cause of women, Mahatma Phule was a successful businessman, contractor, journalist, writer, and poet.

Satyashodhak brings to the fore the respectful and meaningful relationship that Mahatma Phule shared with his wife Savitribai.

Nilesh Jalamkar is a writer and director of this film. He is an expert in biopic films and a State award winner. The film also features Suresh Vishwakarma, Ganesh Yadav, Ravindra Mankani and Monica Pradhan.

Produced by Pravin Tayde, Appa Borate, Bhimrao Pattebahadur, Sunil Shelke and Vishal Wahurwagh for Samata Films and Abhita Films Production Private Limited, Satyashodhak was conceptualised by Rahul Tayade and Vaishakh Wahurwagh.

Sandeep Kulkarni is par excellence in acting and more importantly, a fine character artist, as Satyashodhak reveals (Photo from his Facebook Page)

About Sandeep Kulkarni

A conversation with Sandeep Kulkarni is a journalist’s delight. His affable manners and simplicity are almost unknown in the Hindi film industry which believes in make-believe fantasies. Mr Kulakarni is par excellence in acting and more importantly, a fine character artist, as Satyashodhak reveals. He has to his credit several films, television shows and theatricals, beginning with Mammo in 1994.

He became a popular actor following the success of Shwas (2004), a National Award-Winner, followed by Dombivli Fast (2005) for which he won multiple awards and an Oscar nomination. Traffic Signal (2007) brought him another National Award.

Some of his other notable performances were in Ek Daav Sansarach (2008), Made In China (2009) Pratisaad, The Response (2010), Paranoia (2011) and D-Day (2013)

Mr Kulkarni is associated with the 2018 Gujarati Movie Dhaad directed by Paresh Naik, featuring Nandita Das and K K Menon in lead roles. Krutant, a 2019 psychological thriller, directed by Datta Bhandare, was another successful film that proved his acting calibre.

Rajshri Deshpande is an accomplished actor and a Champion of the under-privileged (LinkedIn Image)

About Rajshri Deshpande

Rajshri Deshpande gained international recognition for her performance in Pan Nalin’s drama film ’Angry Indian Goddesses.’ She portrayed the title character in Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s ‘Sexy Durga,’ and received critical acclaim for her performance in the Netflix ‘Sacred Games.’

In 2023, Ms Deshpande won the Best Actress Award at the Filmfare OTT Awards for her work in ’Trial by Fire.’

Born in a working-class family in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, Ms Deshpande is the youngest of three siblings. With a degree in Law from the Symbiosis Law School and a postgraduate degree in Advertising from Symbiosis International University, she began her career in the advertising industry but soon found her calling in acting. She also has a diploma in filmmaking from Whistling Woods International in Mumbai.

Ms Deshpande made her debut in the Hindi Film industry in 2012 with a small role in the Aamir Khan starrer ’Talaash.’ She then moved to Television, appearing in ‘Kuch Toh Log Kahenge’ and ’24: India,’ in 2013. Returning to the big screen with a small role in Salman Khan’s ’Kick,’ she appeared in a double role in the Malayalam film ’Haram’ in 2015.

It was the portrayal of Laxami in  ‘Angry Indian Goddesses’ that provided her bigger platform. The film received the First Runner-Up People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award at the Rome Film Festival.

Her lead role in ’Sexy Durga’ in 2017, won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Ms Deshpande began her journey in the digital circuit with ‘McMafia’ (BBC One) directed by James Watkins in January 2018. Her role as Subhadra, the wife of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Sacred Games’ won her international acclaim.

Ms Deshpande has devoted time to many humanitarian causes. After the 2015 Nepal earthquake, she worked with an international NGO in an affected village and during the same year adopted a drought-prone village of Pandhari in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra.

Some key facts

The Maharashtra government has accorded a tax-free status to Satyashodhak since the film is aligned with its vision. This film has won five international awards and has been selected for screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

Satyashodhak serves as a reflection on the societal challenges faced by various communities in the 19th century. It can be categorised as a classical movie demonstrating the creative brilliance of Indian artists, and producers by creating a 19th-century plot.

While India is the world’s largest film-producing country, many movies are of substantial budget, but very few films win so many awards.

Satyashodhak is a film based on true events and will appeal to anyone interested in knowing how some parts of the world function.

About Mahatma Phule

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule (11 April 1827 to 28 November 1890) was an Indian social activist, businessman, anti-caste social reformer and writer from Maharashtra.

His work extended to many fields, including eradicating untouchability and the caste system and his efforts in educating women and oppressed caste people.

He and his wife, Savitribai Phule, were pioneers of women’s education in India.

Mahatma Phule started his first school for girls in 1848 in Pune at Tatyasaheb Bhide’s residence or Bhidewada. He and his followers formed the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society of Truth Seekers) to attain equal rights for people from lower castes. People from all religions and castes could become a part of this association which worked for the upliftment of the oppressed classes.

Mahatma Phule is regarded as an important figure in the social reform movement in Maharashtra. The honorific Mahatma (great-souled, venerable) was first applied to him in 1888 at a special programme honouring him in Mumbai.

Born in Poona (now Pune) in 1827 to a family that belonged to the Mali caste, Mahatma Phule was destined to achieve greatness in life.

The Malis traditionally worked as fruit and vegetable growers: in the four-fold system of caste hierarchy, they were placed within the Shudras.

Mahatma Phule was named after God Jyotiba as he was born on the day of His Annual Fair. His family, previously named Gorhe, had its origins in the village of Katgun, near the town of Satara. His great-grandfather, who had worked there as a chaughula or low-ranking village official, moved to Khanwadi in the Pune district. There, his only son, Shetiba, brought the family into poverty.

The move to Pune

The family, including three sons, moved to Poona seeking employment. The boys were taken under the wing of a florist who taught them the secrets of the trade. Their proficiency in growing and arranging became well known and they adopted the name Phule (flower-man) in place of Gorhe.

Their fulfilment of commissions from the PeshwaBaji Rao II, for flower mattresses and other goods for the rituals and ceremonies of the royal court, so impressed him that he granted them 35 acres (14 ha) of land based on the Inam system, whereby no tax would be payable upon it. The oldest brother managed to take sole control of the property, leaving the younger two siblings, Jyotirao Phule’s father, Govindrao, to continue farming and also flower-selling.

Govindrao married Chimnabai and had two sons, of whom Jyotirao was the youngest. Chimnabai died before he was aged one.

The then backward Mali community did not give much significance to education and thus after attending a primary school where he learnt the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, Jyotirao was withdrawn from school by his father. He joined the other members of his family at work, both in the shop and on the farm.

However, a man from the same Mali caste as Phule recognised his intelligence and persuaded Phule’s father to allow him to attend the local Scottish Mission High School.

Phule completed his English schooling in 1847. As was customary, he was married at the young age of 13, to a girl from his Mali community, chosen by his father.

The Turning Point

The turning point in his life was in 1848 when he attended the wedding of a Brahmin friend. Phule participated in the customary marriage procession but was later rebuked and insulted by his friend’s parents for doing so. They told him that he being from a Shudra caste should have had the sense to keep away from that ceremony. This incident profoundly affected him and shaped his understanding of the injustice inherent to the caste system.

Views on religion and caste

Phule appealed for the reestablishment of the reign of mythical Mahabali (King Bali) which predated Aryans’ treacherous coup d’etat. He proposed his own version of the Aryan invasion theory that the Aryan conquerors of India, whom the theory’s proponents considered to be racially superior, were barbaric suppressors of the indigenous people.

He believed that they had instituted the caste system as a framework for subjugation and social division that ensured the pre-eminence of their Brahmin successors.

He saw the subsequent Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent as more of the same sort of thing, being a repressive alien regime, but took heart in the arrival of the British, whom he considered to be relatively enlightened and not supportive of the varnashrama dharma system instigated and then perpetuated by those previous invaders.

In his book, Gulamgiri, he thanked Christian missionaries and the British colonists for making the exploited castes realise that they were worthy of all human rights. The book, whose title transliterates as slavery and which concerned women, caste and reform, was dedicated to the people in the US who were working to end slavery.

Phule saw Vishnu Avatars as a symbol of oppression stemming from the Aryan conquests and took Mahabali (Bali Raja) as a hero. His critique of the caste system began with an attack on the Vedas, the most fundamental texts of Hindus. He considered them to be a form of false consciousness.

He is credited with introducing the Marathi word Dalit (broken, crushed) as a descriptor for those people who were outside the traditional varna system.

At an Education Commission hearing in 1882, Phule called for help in providing education for lower castes. To implement it, he advocated making primary education compulsory in villages. He also asked for special incentives to get more lower-caste people into high schools and colleges.[

The Satyashodhak Samaj

On 24 September 1874, Phule formed Satyashodhak Samaj to focus on the rights of depressed groups such as women, the Shudra, and the Dalit.

Through this Samaj, he opposed idolatry and denounced the caste system. The Satyashodhak Samaj campaigned for the spread of rational thinking and rejected the need for priests. Its ideals include the well-being, happiness, unity, and equality of all human beings with easy religious principles and rituals.

The membership of the samaj included Muslims, Brahmins and government officials.

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