Nandita Das Launches Her Book “Manto & I” At G5A
Nandita Das launched her book “Manto & I” in Mumbai last evening, where she had a heartfelt and spontaneous conversation with Namita Devidayal and the Manto in her film – Nawazuddin Siddiqui. They were later joined by Rasika Duggal who plays Manto’s wife, Safiyah, in the movie. Anuradha Parikh, Founder and Artistic Director of the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, ensured the G5A Black Box was transformed beautifully for an intimate and immersive conversation about Manto and his relevance to our times.
Elaborating on the writing process of the film, Nandita shared, “When I was writing, I just thought of Nawaz for the role of Manto. It’s really about his eyes. Of course, he is a very good performer and there is no question about it, but, when you’re casting, you have to think about what the actor will bring to the character. You feel this person might embody the character – in so many ways, I think Nawaz embodies Manto.”
Nawazuddin elaborated on the experience of shooting with Nandita for the film, “Overall the experience, during the process of filming, I felt a sense of satisfaction. During a shoot, if I felt that I have spoken the truth through this scene, that honesty would reflect in my performance. If I tried to act, one’s own honesty would be compromised.”
They spoke fondly of the memories on set, recreating 1950s Lahore and Mumbai on screen, and the immersive nature of Manto’s world. Nawazuddin expressed that his thoughts began to match Manto’s, “As an actor, we have to live multiple characters in our life. Many times, your own thoughts don’t matter, you live on borrowed thoughts from society. While I was playing Manto, I would look at the world through Manto’s perspective. Yes, there are some characters which allow you to express so many things that you wouldn’t otherwise. It was really satisfying to be able to play such a character, where maybe if I was scared to say something, my character would say that for me.”
He would call Nandita Das ‘Lady Manto’ on the set when they would sit and discuss the scenes. Both of them felt that their real takeaway from Manto’s work was his compulsion to voice the truth and tell things as they are. “Eventually, your own thoughts also start to match Manto’s because every man wants to tell the truth, but there are few who are willing to listen to the truth. I feel if people were more open to listening, every man would spill out the truth about his life”, expressed Nawaz.
Nandita added, “In a way, this film was a tribute to all those maverick people who are filled with Mantoiyat. I think we all have it in us in different measure. When I say Mantoiyat, I mean the will to be more free-spirited, to be more honest and courageous. When we see people who are that way, we envy it – we also want to be that way. I have been very fortunate to have met so many people in my life who have lived their life on their own terms, and been extremely courageous – people who are truly committed to what they believe in. So in many ways it’s an ode to them. This book is dedicated to all the Mantos in the world!
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