'Economics interferes with art'

'Economics interferes with art'

Casting process

'Economics interferes with art'

Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been penciled in to play the titular character in Nandita Das’ Indo-French co-production ‘Manto’. Nawazuddin, who is garnering rave reviews for his performance as a demented serial killer in ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’, has already done costume tests for the role of the celebrated writer who left an indelible imprint on Urdu literature in a short-lived but brilliant career.

“I have had Nawazuddin in mind from the very outset,” said Nandita. The shoot is expected to take place in Mumbai and Lahore around the end of the year. “But in India, economics interferes with art and there was pressure on me to cast a more mainstream star. But I absolutely need the kind of nuances and depth that only Nawazuddin can deliver,” she added.

Nandita says that her ‘Manto’ is neither a big Bollywood film nor a small independent film. “We have to recreate Mumbai and Lahore of the 1950s and that demands a certain budget. It’s not a cradle-to-grave biopic but a drama celebrating the life and work of a writer who was a natural rebel, a man who went against the tide without being a conscious activist,” she explains.

The film will cover a period of seven years between 1946 and 1952, which was an important phase in the history of the subcontinent. “Manto’s simple yet profound narratives are today as relevant as ever. That is what draws me to him. He talks about everything I care for — freedom of expression, the question of identities thrust upon us, about wedges being driven between groups,” she says. She adds, “It is an intimate retelling of the times, seen through the eyes of this intensely engaged writer. I am certain it will resonate with audiences around the world.”

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