CANNES: Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been penciled in to play the titular character in Nandita Das Indo-French co-production Manto.
This was formally revealed by the director on the sidelines of the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Nawazuddin, who is garnering rave reviews for his performance as a demented serial killer in the Cannes Directors Fortnight entry “Raman Raghav 2.0”, has already done costume tests for the role of the celebrated writer who left an indelible imprint on Urdu literature in a short-lived but brilliant career.
The funding of the film, being produced among others by Vivek Kajaria of Mumbai-based Holy Basil Productions, is in place and talks are on to put together the crew.
“I have had Nawazuddin in mind from the very outset,” says Nandita Das, who is in Cannes to freeze plans for the shoot expected to take place in Mumbai and Lahore around the end of the year.
“But in India, economics always interferes with art and there was pressure on me to cast a more mainstream star,” she adds.
“But I absolutely need the kind of nuances and depth that only Nawazuddin can deliver.”
Das says that her Manto is neither a big Bollywood film nor a small independent film. “We have to recreate Mumbai and Lahore of the 1950s and that demands a certain budget,” she says.
“Its not a cradle-to-grave biopic but a drama celebrating the life and work of a writer who was a natural rebel, a man who went against the tide without being a conscious activist,” she explains.
The film will cover a period of seven years between 1946 and 1952, which was an important phase in the history of the subcontinent,” says Das.
“Mantos simple yet profound narratives are today as relevant as ever,” says Das.
“That is what draws me to him. He talks about everything I care for ? freedom of expression, the question of identities thrust upon us, about wedges being driven between groups.”
Her film on Manto, says Das, “is an intimate retelling of the times, seen through the eyes of this intensely engaged writer. I am certain it will resonate with audiences around the world.”