Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Duggal, Tahir Bhasin, Ila Arun
Nandita Das
Drama - Bio

With its showcase at the Toronto International Film Festival 2018, Manto is certainly a film that calls out to the audience and critics alike to watch. The life of the radical writer Manto being brought to life by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a movie directed by Nandita Das – it doesn’t get better than that, does it?


A life of a thinker, writer, reformer, artist is always a mix of people who are really in their life and those that they have imagined. The coexistence of what is in their mind and their surroundings, often conflicts and confuses. Nandita Das’ Manto etches this confusion that was the life of Saadat Hasan Manto. The way she weaves his life into his stories and stretches the audience between real and imaginary, is what makes the film a compelling watch.


Manto begins with what anyone would imagine conversations of the intellectuals would be like. Conversations, conflicts, confidences…  Filling the room with the smoke of their cigarettes, they would be throwing ideas and debating ideologies. They would be snickering on diktats and meddling with ideas. Das’ Manto begins in the pre-independence era, when life was awkward with court cases but his wife and daughter made up for those times. Also, his heart was filled with hope for a better tomorrow, post-independence.


Everything starts falling apart when he moves from Mumbai to Pakistan, and hope starts looking hopeless. For someone who was never really a staunch muslim, his only belief in humanity starts faltering. The reality starts getting so ugly that coming to terms with it gets tougher with time.


Along with his life, his stories start reflecting his views on humanity or the lack of it around him. never one to pass a judgment, his stories only reflect his feelings and his perspective of the world around him.


The film is so deeply detailed and beautifully woven, that you forget you are seeing Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He becomes Manto right in front of your eyes and you don’t even realise it. It is only when you walk out of the theatre, a little moved and a little uneasy, you realise how beautifully he captured the essence of the writer, and lost himself in it. Over the period of time, if you like me felt that Nawaz was being a little more Nawaz than the characters he was playing, this time will be enough to satiate the fan in you. Once again, you find the excellence in him breath-taking. With him is Rasika Duggal, Tahir Bhasin, enthralling the audience as effortlessly as the man himself.


Kartik Vijay’s cinematography, Rita Ghosh’s production design are equally commendable. The film is so beautifully crafted, that it looks like you are living the life of the man you have admired from afar.


Of course, the major portion of the praise should go to Nandita Das - the lady has really given Manto fans a treasure by recreating the life of the man himself. However, whatever you see in the film is already known by those who have followed Manto’s works. There is nothing that surprises the fans and nothing that gives you that little extra. The experience of Manto is just like the opening scene of the film, a lot of intellectual talks, conflicts and conversations which once again, through this movie you are privy to….But the way the story is told, through his own stories, is what is so compelling.


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