Just when you think versatile Nawazuddin Siddiqui has delivered the best performance of his life, the actor takes you by surprise yet again. ‘Manto’ is just another feather added to the already full cap of this actor who never fails to bring something new to the celluloid each time he graces it. An intensely gripping story takes you on a journey like never before beautifully written and directed by Nandita Das. Set in the backdrop of the pre and post Independence era, ‘Manto’ is sure to tug at your heartstrings.
Taking a walk down the memory lane, one gets to see the pre-Independence era through the lens of Nandita Das. Unlike what the cine-goers are used to watching on the big screen, sequences telling tales of the Hindu-Muslim struggle is bound to stay with you in a unique way especially one where Manto wakes his wife Safia from her slumber to catch a glimpse of the night when India was declared an Independent nation. The makers paid attention to the tiniest of details in the film, be it the scene where the acclaimed writer went to buy a pair of shoes and shoe boxes from the era gone by lay neatly stacked in the corner or the vintage Rs 5 note he offered his haath-rickshawalla. With a background music that makes up for goosebumps on your arm to scenes that leaves you teary-eyed, Manto keeps one glued to their seats amused until the very end.
The film that revolves around the rise and fall of acclaimed writer Saadat Hussain Manto opens with a story written by the man of the hour himself. Nandita makes sure to keep the essence of the write throughout the film by breaking in and out of his stories as the film proceeds. Manto, who enjoys living in the city of dreams Mumbai, makes a good living for himself writing scripts for films. Not a man who minces his words, he likes to keep his circle small and close. Issues start to crop up when the actor comes face to face with the harsh reality of the Independence era and things take an ugly turn. The film is laced with poetry that will make you ponder for days and dialogues that are like verses of poetry itself. Nawaz as Manto has done complete justice to the character from the body language to the way he casts a spell with his words. One may also find a ‘Sacred Games’ reunion with Rajshri Deshpande and Neeraj Kabi playing pivotal roles in the film.
Films like ‘Manto’ are a work of art which needs to be cherished for years to come. Nandita Das, who dons the role of a director, left no stone unturned to make this flick a memorable watch for its viewers. Performances by the leads to the supporting actors have been worth a watch (or many). With cameos by Javed Akhtar, Gurdas Mann and many others, one takes away a happy yet heavy feeling home post watching this one-of-its-kind film.
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Saadat Hasan Manto, Rasika Dugal as Safia and Tahir Raj Bhasin as Shyam
What works: The storyline of the film and the way it has been brought to screen is pure joy for movie buffs to see unfold on the celluloid.
What doesn't: With the first half of the film being a gripping one, somewhere down the second half feels like a drag. Nonetheless, ‘Manto’ makes for a great watch.
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