Saadat Hasan Manto: Nawazuddin Siddiqui Charged Re. 1 To Play This Iconic Tragic Character

Nandita Das in her latest biographical film "Manto" shows the life and trials of a problematic person. "Manto" offers a great insight into the life and mind of one of the literary geniuses and greatest yet most controversial writers of the 20th century- Saadat Hasan Manto.

Manto, was born in British India, he lived in Mumbai and after partition left for Pakistan. His short stories were sad, violent, sexual and shocking. These dark, brutal but deeply humane stories were too much for the uptight British Government and even for the people of Pakistan. Due to his stories he was charged with obscenity and he spent his last years of his life fighting legal battles to defend his right to write. He fought six trials on obscenity charges, three in British India and three in Pakistan.


The film is about turbulant four years of Manto's life in the two countries he called home - India and Pakistan. It deals with the drastic change Manto endured, life in Bombay surrounded by friends and fans where his stories are widely read, accepted and even appreciated. After partition in Lahore, he finds himself devoid of friends and readers. With time he turns to alcohol which leads to his doom.

Das' screenplay stresses on the period of Indian independence from British rule and the bloody Partition of India and Pakistan. Many of Manto’s violent stories from this period comes from the horrors that he witnessed and read about during the time of Partition. His most famous line, “If you cannot bear my stories, it is because we live in unbearable times,” he directed it towards his critics, who thought his stories were obscene.

In the film's trailer one can see how Nawaz has an astounding resemblance of the writer, not just the way he looked but the mannerisms and the way he acted. He portrays Manto's talent, wit, feeling of betrayal and tragedy with such precision.

Acclaimed actor-filmmaker Nandita Das confessed that she was pressured to sign a more commercially successful actor for the role but it was always Nawazuddin Siddiqui in her mind. As expected the actor got into the character of late Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto for film Manto effortlessly. “I always had Nawaz in mind while writing Manto. He has many traits that are similar to Manto – a deep sensitivity and intensity, anger, and a dry sense of humor. These innate qualities in Nawaz helped him transition into Manto on screen quite effortlessly,” Nandita said in a statement to IANS.


"I needed a brilliant actor to portray many contradictory emotions since Manto was a complex character. For instance, he was a person with moral courage, but was also scared of going to jail, confident but vulnerable, deeply sensitive yet very angry. You will know Nawaz’s range when you see Manto,” she added. Reportedly, Nawaz charged only Rs 1 for the film. "This is the character that an actor would give an arm and leg for. But to not charge even a nominal fee is very gracious of Nawaz," Nandita said in a statement to IANS.

This film boasts of a stellar casts like Rishi Kapoor, Gurdas Maan, Javed Akhtar etc. Along with them production designer Rita Das and cinematographer Kartik Vijay helps in recreating tragic ambience of the partitioned India in every frame. 

Picture Source: Bollywood life; Deccan Chronice; Hindustan Times; Youtube 

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