Avinash Lohana (MUMBAI MIRROR; March 9, 2017)

After Shabana Azmi agreed to play Nargis’s mother, singer-composer-actress-fi lmmaker Jaddanbai, Nandita Das has now roped in Shabana’s husband, veteran poet-lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar for a cameo in the Manto biopic toplined by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Akhtar will be returning to the screen eight years after Madhureeta Anand’s Mere Khwabon Mein Jo Aaye. He will play a college principal who vehemently defends Saadat Hasan Manto’s right to express himself.

The late writer, playwright and author, considered among the greatest short story writers in South Asia, was tried for obscenity six times — thrice before 1947 in British India and thrice after independence in Pakistan — but was never convicted.

“It’s exciting that Javed saab has agreed to act in the film. I just read out the role to him on the phone and he said ‘yes’ and I shall be meeting him for a reading soon. I’ve known him for 20 years, since Fire, and am grateful that so many people are trusting and supporting me,” says Nandita, adding that Akhtar’s character will appear in court when Manto’s obscenity case is being tried. “It will be interesting to see a progressive writer defend another progressive writer,” she smiles. The real life husband-wife won’t be sharing screen space in the film.