For Firaaq fame, Nandita Das; Manto is as important as her earlier projects and she feels, the film essentially is timed well, given that the present scheme of things in the nation are more conducive for a narrative of this kind.
Das first came to know about Manto when she was in college. Like Manto, Das appeared disturbed by the insensitivity and the intolerance of the times we live in.
Nandita helmed Firaaq in 2008 with celebrated actors as Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Paresh Rawal and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The film displayed the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Das over the years has emerged as a performer par excellence with her collaboration with legends like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal, Mani Ratnam, Santosh Sivan and Jag Mundhra among others.
Saadat Hasan Manto continues to be an enigma for innumerable admirers.
Recently, we had a Pakistani film on Manto by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat
Nandita has spent quality time with the author’s family. This is her second directorial venture after Firaaq.
Manto : In Defence of Freedom – a six minute short film not just underscores the basic premise of Saadat Hasan Manto’s much critiqued body of work, but also talks of the idea of Freedom of Expression. For journalists and writers the film has a message of presenting things which exist in society as it is and not try to brush things under the carpet. The monologue also sends out a message that one cannot put blinkers on his or her eyes to avoid the truth.
Manto, is played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the film which is now featuring in the Cannes film festival. It is a telling commentary on the free thinking spirit of the Indo Pak writer. Nawazuddin does justice to the titular role with perfect diction and acting skills.
Scripted in typical Hindi Urdu zabaan it stresses on the need to right to express and write, as blunt as one aspires.
As Manto, Nawaz explains he writes what he sees. He says writings should reflect society, irrespective of explicit content people raise an objection to.
Nawaz has had to read Manto extensively and try to emulate his mannerisms despite little footage of the man in question. The film covers Manto’s life from the age of 25 to 35 years.
To imbibe his dialect was the toughest for Nawaz.
Nawazuddin known for quite a few memorable acts including “Manjhi: The Mountain Man” and Gangs of Wasseyur is at present shooting in Croatia for an international series based on the Mac Mafia.
Nawaz is a regular at Cannes as his previous films – “The Lunchbox”, “Gangs of Wasseypur”, “Miss Lovely”, “Liar’s Dice” and “Raman Raghav 2.0” were screened here.
Manto died at an age of 42, leaving behind 600 short tales and hundreds of essays.
He has been tried for obscenity six times thrice by the British and thrice by the Pakistani Government.
To sum it up in the words of the actor playing Manto- ‘mera maanna hai ki har uss chez ke bare mein likha jaana chahiye jo aapke saamne maujood ho.’
The music by Sneha Khanwalkar and cinematography by Kartik Vijay also facilitate the real star, dialogue.