Playing Manto taught Nawazuddin honesty

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Ahead of the release of Manto, Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks about the experience of playing Saadat Hasan Manto, the prolific Urdu writer of short fiction, and working with director Nandita Das. 

What attracted you to Manto’s character?

Manto wrote about what he saw and was never scared of the truth. He had the courage to show society’s hypocrisy.

That attracted many court cases but he did not back off and wrote till the end. I decided that unless I was honest to myself I could not play Manto’s character. It is very difficult today to be honest to yourself or to speak the truth. If I am honest to you, you might judge me as a bad person. That is why it affected me. I started speaking the truth and many people began judging me.

You have previously worked with Nandita in Firaaq, during your days of struggle. How has the experience changed?

Firaaq was the first time I got a big role. It is great working with her. Since she is an actor she knows how to get work done well by another actor. This new sensibility that has come into her in these 10 years is amazing.

In a previous interview you had said looks matter more in the industry than acting skills. Do you see that changing?

Until we learn to be proud about ourselves and find ourselves to be powerful looks are always going to matter. Anybody fair in our country is considered good-looking irrespective of his features. This perception comes from 200 years of British rule. They were our rulers and so superior to us. When we see someone fair we believe he is superior. Even if a beggar from that country comes to India we think he is rich. Until this changes we will be obsessed with looks. It is definitely changing but only in a few pockets.

Very few Bollywood films tell small-town stories. You hail from a small town in UP. What do you think of this? 

Things are changing. Now everyone has begun to do small-town films. The days of the NRI returned from Switzerland are over. People find that fake. Small-town stories are what portray our country. Those are the characters we see in our daily life.

When will we see you in a romantic role?

I am doing four love stories. Today we need love the most.

Nawaz’s faves

Directors he aspires to work with: “Young directors. They make a new kind of cinema.”

Favourite character from Sacred Games: Kuku.

Characters he would like to play: Wolf of Wall Street and Birdman.

Theatre character he would like to play: Tughlaq from Girish Karnad’s eponymous play.

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Playing Manto taught Nawazuddin honesty

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