Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Divya Dutta.
Director: Nandita Das.
Producer: Vikrant Batra, Ajit Andhare, Namrata Goyal, Nandita Das.
The biographical output of an indo-pakistan poet, Saadat Hasan Manto, is an absolutely acclaimed art film. The film bluntly and openly reveals the true colors of two countries, India and Pakistan. The film is set back in time of pre-independence era. The film follows the most tumultuous life of Manto and showcases the situations of two countries he inhabits i.e, India and Pakistan. In Bombay’s seedy-shiny and kingsize life of filmy world, Manto’s writings are widely accepted by the filmmakers. They genuinely admire his art of bluntly penning down the rough edges of the outer world. Initially, Manto was more dedicated towards writing about prostitutes. In each and every poem, he shows empathy for the prostitutes who’re forced to sell off their dignity for the sake of few penny. The fact was absolutely undigestable for him, he believe his writing could bring up a change in the mentality of the cruel so-called humans. Soon the film drives forward, where India gets its Independence, the atmosphere was calm, calmness before the devastating storm. Soon, sectarian violence engulfs the nation, the conflicts within Hindu and Muslim gets aggressive with each passing day. Manto had a huge belief in Shyam, who was an actor. They both share a really close bond of friendship which the youth should adopt. As the violence started getting worse day by day, Manto makes the most difficult and disheartening choice of fleeing back to Lahore leaving back his love, Bombay. Bombay is far too close to his heart as the grave of his mother is dug in this place. In Lahore, he finds himself lost, bereft of friends and unable to find admirers for his writings. The people in area considers his writings very offensive to their norms. Besides all this problems, to add cherry on the top, Manto was a chain smoker and an alcohol addict. His increasing alcoholism leads him into a downward spiral. One of his poem named, Cold Flesh was highly oppressive for which he has to face the courtroom as well. His literature was condemned as fatal which shakes him from the core. The plight of women employed in the flesh sale brings a poignant feeling to the worlds he transports us into. Despite facing so many oppositions towards his writings, he continues to write prolifically, without dilution.
These contrasting elements of soft-harsh and reality-imagination are what Nandita plays with throughout the film. An absolute brilliant artwork displayed by her, it is a clear tribute to Manto’s life. She grabs no cinematic liberty with the film, and is fearless to present such an amazing tale. The fact which attracts the most besides the flawless performance is the language used. Film is almost in pure Urdu, which makes it difficult for audience to understand the actual meaning of dialogues, especially without subtitles. But as the saying goes that every coin has two sides, the negative factor is the most attractive element of the film.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a big name in Bollywood Industry now. He never fails to surprise us with his brilliant performance. Even words fall short to compare his acting skills, with very less time, he has conquered several heartbeats. There cannot be anyone better than him to perform such a critical character. Forget about dialogues, even his glimpse for a second is enough to make you whistle. Urdu is the most difficult language to speak, and he does that with an east and with perfection. His tongue is so clear that it’ll totally make you fall for him. From not bowing down to conventions to facing the frustration of withdrawing his memoir, Nawazuddin proves he has striking similarities to Manto’s life. He uses his theater background and the assistance of a like-minded director to amplify his earnest performance.
There are several cameo’s in the film like Paresh Raval, Rishi Kapoor, Javed Akhtar and all adds the enhancement to the film.
Nandita retains this honesty, and even celebrates it. She also spells out the consequences brutally. She leaves no stones unturned to bring this imagination to life. Her latest piece of work may not be for the masses, but that in no way robs her film of any merit.
Cinespeaks Verdict: The tribute giving masterpiece, created by Nandita Das is a biographical output of Saadat Hasan Manto’s life. This is the tale of two emerging nations where riots bring forth the dark, unforgiving times of two countries superficially reveling in their freedom, two faltering cities, and one man with bundles of ego tries to make sense of it all. The movie isn’t advisable for mass audience, but is a perfect watch for the content seekers and admirers.
Cinespeaks gives 4.0 Stars to the film.
Written By: Aakash Gala