Manto: A film about a heartbroken artist and his muse

The film Manto, with the idea of of creative expression at its centre, is relevant in contemporary times when writers and artist(e)s are under fire for expressing uncomfortable truths.

The biopic which has been creating waves at several international film festivals like the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival besides, Melbourne and Sydney showcases the tumultuous life of the prolific Urdu writer, Saadat Hasan Manto.


Talkietive Reviews bring you the 5 Good Things to look out for, in the film.

1. Free Expression: The film Manto, with the idea of freedom of creative expression at its centre, is relevant in contemporary times when writers and artist(e)s are under fire for expressing uncomfortable truths. Saadat Hasan Manto, was renowned for his thought provoking articles and short stories often featuring women protagonists. His stories, although tagged as vulgar, often held up a mirror to the society and its hypocrisy.

2. The Write Note: The film's story draws generously from his writings and is well written. The screenplay does not resort to the tropes of commercial cinema, found so frequently in Bollywood biopics. This is not a fictional account of Manto's life—instead, Nandita Das opts to keep the story as close to reality as possible. Short stories like Thanda Gosht, Toba Tek Singh and Khol Do are well used to portray Manto's personality and his ideology.

3. Past Perfect: Production design and costumes are always the backbone of any good period film. Manto is no different. Rita Ghosh and Sheetal Sharma work on the personal and intimate story in a way that the Independence and the Partition era comes alive. The key is in their meticulous detailing of the costumes—kurtas, saris, hats and trousers —and other set elements like the furniture, locations, etc.

4. Ensemble Cast: Manto boasts of an ensemble cast like no other, with the likes of Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Javed Akhtar, Tillotama Shome, Gurdas Maan, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Tahir Raj Bhasin and several others in small roles but their presence does lend the film the much required heft. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in and as Manto is a welcome change from his gangster avatar. He imbues the character with the much needed feistiness, alternating with a philosophical quietude, difficult to pull off. However, it is Rasika Dugal as Safiyah, Manto's wife, who wins hearts with her sincere performance.

5. Director's Cut: Director Nandita Das is in fine form. Her sensitive handling of the subject shows a deep understanding of the craft, as well as her conviction in the cause the film espouses. Particularly striking is the treatment of Safiyah, who unlike the wives in Hindi films is an equal partner to Manto. The female gaze and the insightful handling of the material—that of Manto's heartbreak and his subsequent decline—hints at a director who is here to stay.

This review originally appeared on www.talkietive.in



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