MUMBAI: Actress-filmmaker Nandita Das is returning to direction after a gap of almost six years with the life-story of Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto and she says internationally acclaimed actor Irrfan Khan has expressed his desire to play the lead in the film.
Nandita says Irrfan, who himself is a Manto fan and has read a lot of the his work, is a sensitive actor and will be able to pull off the role very effortlessly.
“Irrfan has shown a lot of serious interest in the film. The whole film rests on Manto. It is an amazing role for any actor.
“Infact when I spoke to Irrfan he said for this kind of role any actor from the grave would also come out and do it. He is a very sensitive actor. He himself has read a lot of Manto. Manto speaks to him at a personal level just as it does to me. So I am hoping that we will be able to work together,” Nandita said.
The director has just finished the script and the film will go on floors in August next year.
The 46-year-old actress made her directorial debut in 2008 with “Firaaq”, a political thriller film set one month after the 2002 riots in Gujarat and looked at the aftermath of its effects on the lives of people.
With “Manto”, Nandita is telling the story of the prolific Pakistani writer, whose works are celebrated in both sides of the border.
Manto was tried for obscenity six times; thrice before 1947 in British India, and thrice after independence in 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted.
“Manto is the protagonist. Through the film I want to say that everything that was relevant in his time is sadly still relevant today. Whether it’s the struggle for identity or freedom of expression. Many of the issues that he grappled with are the same stories today. His stories are extremely powerful, so was his life,” Nandita says.
“When I started reading Manto in college, especially his essays, I got to know more about the man the person, and it was probably a more compelling story. I think we should tell the world what this man was. Had Manto been in any European country I am sure there would have been a film made on him already. We don’t see films like this coming out of here.”
Nandita says her film is not a biopic as it is not based on his full life. She will focus on the 10 years of Manto’s life from 1942 to 1952, just before and after Partition.
“That is a very important period in the lives of India and Pakistan. So that what the film is focusing on.”
Nandita says she wants to shoot some parts in Pakistan as Manto is a man who belonged to both the countries.
“I want to try and shoot there. For a few days at least. I want to do a collaborative work with Pakistan. I know in this climate it sounds odd. But I think if Manto can’t bring us together then who will. Especially in the cultural space.”
The director says about 75 per cent of the film is funded with Indian and French producers on board.