As they inch towards kicking off the celebrated writer’s biopic, Nandita Das and her leading man grabbed eyeballs with a spot-on look test
Avinash Lohana (MUMBAI MIRROR; February 3, 2017)

Nandita Das, who is gearing up to take her second directorial, the Saadat Hasan Manto biopic top-lined by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, off the ground, has kicked off prep with a look test which shows the 42-year-old actor in character, bearing a striking resemblance to the late author-playwright.

Nandita, who is currently in Paris, informed that she had done a test with Nawaz and Rasika Dugal, who plays Manto’s wife Safia, on Wednesday. “It’s a work in progress with a lot more to be done in terms of how Manto looked and, more importantly, how he was as a person. His attitude, sensitivity, courage and fears… many contradictions have to be portrayed honestly. I have no doubt that Nawaz is the best choice for the part, his range as an actor and sensitivity as a person are both needed here,” she asserted.

On his part, Nawaz has been reading Dastavez, a five-volume collection of Manto’s work, and will dive completely into the prep after he wraps up Sabbir Khan’s Munna Michael with Tiger Shroff. “I’ve been reading up a lot on Manto and know a few of his writings by rote now. The role spans from 25 to 35 and my office is full of clothes and shoes replicated from his time. We won’t be using prosthetics and would like to keep the look as natural as possible as Manto was a simple man. I will imbibe the way he spoke but since there aren’t any videos available, I will have to depend on his writings to understand the rhythm of his speech and the way he would use words, beautifully,” says Nawaz.

Manto’s three daughters--Nighat, Nuzhat and Nusrat-- and other family members who live in Lahore, have extended support to Nandita, sharing nuggets from his life which aren’t to be found in his works, which have been duly incorporated in the screenplay. Costume designer, Sheetal Sharma, is going the extra mile to ensure authenticity.

Nandita read Manto for the first time when in college and has always wanted to make a film on his works. “But his essays made me realise that his life was as stirring and dramatic as his works. Today, I feel equipped, both emotionally and creatively, to tell this story that needs to be told,” she had told Mirror earlier (October 11, 2016).

So when will the film take off? “Nawaz and I are together on the journey of creating Manto. We still have some time to go before we shoot but we’re excited that Manto has started,” she exults.