After visiting various film festivals including Cannes, Manto is finally ready for its theatrical release. The film is Nandita Das’ second directorial venture and stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role and Rasika Duggal as Manto’s wife Safia. The film intersperses Manto’s stories with his life and looks at only a few important years of his life because it would be difficult to encapsulate his entire journey into a two hour film.
“Everyone keeps asking me, is this a commercial film, is this an art film? We are so interested in attaching labels to things, which Manto would have also disapproved of,” says Nandita. The trailer has garnered praise from all quarters, and had reaffirmed the the team’s faith in the film. “I think people want to be engaged and not necessarily entertained. We’ve not taken the four best lines of the film and put it in the trailer, the trailer reflects the tone of the film.” says Nandita.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui was cast because of his uncanny resemblance and in Nandita’s words because his eyes had a certain ‘lived life’ feeling which not many people have. “I don’t carry my characters from one film to another,” said Nawazuddin when asked about how he oscillates between serious films like Mantoand masala entertainers like Kick and Genius.
The film also stars Tahir Raj Bhasin as 1940s star Shyam Chand, who was a close friend of Manto’s. Rasika was also cast primarily for her resemblance to Safia. “I had to make sure that I wasn’t awed by Manto’s character, because personally I love his work. But in a marriage you can’t be awestruck by your husband constantly,” says Rasika. All four of them unanimously say that Manto was a rebel and that is what makes him so relevant even today. Nandita concludes by saying, “What I want people to take away is that they should be a little more fearless, courageous and I think this film has that quality, Manto has that quality.”
Manto directed by Nandita Das, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Rajshri Deshpande and Rishi Kapoor, releases on 21st September.