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Nandita Das: Manto Was Born Out Of My Concern & Desire To Respond To The Issues Around Me

By Shubhankar Sengupta
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    In her second feature film, Director Nandita Das gives us a tribute to Saadat Hasan Manto - a prolific South Asian writer who dared to write on the atrocious truths that nobody could speak about at his time. Set in British India, the film follows the most tumultuous four years (1946-1950) in the life of Saadat Hasan Manto. Nandita Das brings together the pieces of a man's life whose stories continue to stand as a mirror for society to see itself.

    "What drew me to the story of Manto was his free spirit and courage to stand up to orthodoxy of all kinds. I was struck by his simple yet profound narratives and the way he insightfully captured the people, politics and times he lived in. He wrote as he saw, as he felt, without dilution and with a rare sensitivity and empathy for his characters. For years I thought of making a film based on Manto's short stories, even before I made my directorial debut, Firaaq. But it was in 2012, when I delved deeper into Manto's essays, that they helped the idea expand beyond his stories. It took me 5 years to feel equipped, both emotionally and creatively, to tell this story that so needed to be told" said Director Nandita Das to Filmibeat.

    Nandita Das & Nawazuddin Siddiqui

    With Nawazuddin Siddiqui capturing the essence of Manto, the film seeks to inspire us by taking us back to a horrific setting during the partition of India. Amidst the grueling tensions, this phase perhaps brought out Manto's most impressive works to light. Nawazuddin relives the most memorable years of Manto's life from creating masterpieces and awakening consciousness to influencing people and fighting legal battles in the law courts for the right to write. Nawazuddin's role also focusses on the partition of India and the journey to an independent Pakistan where he continues to write great pieces of work.

    Nawazuddin Siddiqui As Saadat Hasan Manto

    "They say if you get the casting right, 70% of your job is done, and with Nawaz, that's exactly what happened. He looks and feels the part. He has an incredible range as an actor, but intrinsically Manto lies somewhere in his eyes - it was an obvious choice for me. I brought in my research and script and Nawaz brought with him his life experiences and his talent. Together, I think we managed to bring many subtleties and nuances to the character of Manto.

    Nawaz has many traits that are similar to Manto - a deep sensitivity and intensity, anger, and a dry, deadpan sense of humour. These innate qualities in Nawaz helped him transition into Manto on screen quite effortlessly. Having worked with him in Firaaq, there was already a comfort level which made it a lot easier to work with him. I feel that our actor-director relationship struck a perfect chord" said Director Nandita Das on actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

    A film that took 5 years in the making, revisits the hostile conditions of India in the 1940's under British rule with a unique perspective. The struggle of a writer whose greatest works were deemed obscene by the courts, did not silence him under pressure. Manto was tried for obscenity 6 times but was never convicted.

    Nandita Das At The Cannes Film Festival 2018

    What's supposed to be Nandita Das's second film as a Director has started its journey at the Cannes Film Festival 2018! Following the selection of her film in the Cannes festival, Nandita Das said - "We couldn't have found a better platform than Cannes to start the Manto journey. I was most delighted to find out on the 12th of April, the day they announced the official entries, that Manto was selected for ‘Un Certain Regard'. It is one of the two main sections at Cannes, the other one being the main competition section, which does have far more glitz but it is said that Un Certain Regard has the gems! This actually made it a more daunting task as some of the best films usually fall in this section.

    Manto Grand Release & Starcast

    Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiuqi, Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and Javed Akhtar is all set to hit the theatres on September 21, 2018.

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