Based around the early post-Independence period in India and Pakistan, Manto is a biographical drama depicting the life of popular Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) during the same time as he struggled with charges of obscenity as well as his own personal issues.
Positive Points: –
- If not for a few minor issues which can be relative to different viewers, Manto is otherwise an unblemished work of cinema which has been built with great skill and perfection.
- Although Nawaz is the centre of attraction, the script doesn’t home in on his character the weight of the entire film, thus ensuring that no matter how small the roles are, every cast member performs splendidly.
- Director Nandita Das not only handles the intricacies of the lead character pretty well but also sets up a suitable atmosphere which brings to view the complicated scenarios people were in before and after India’s partition.
- Even as the screenwriter, Das has produced an immaculate script with some sterling dialogues which not only make the viewer understand the ongoing situations in the film but also inspires him/her to introspect life through the eyes and words of its characters.
Negative Points: –
- Though this might not affect everyone, it’s a cliché in biographies to cut down the negative aspects of their respective central characters. Manto somewhat also falls prey to this age-old practice.
The General Aspects Of The Film: –
I’m confused as to where I should begin with, as there’s a lot to commend in admiration of the film. Manto is obviously not a commercial flick yet it has a quality that will be approved by both the masses and the classes. There is almost nothing to point out wrong in the film that has been crafted with great finesse and perspicacity. Returning to direction after a decade, Nandita Das has created almost a similar impression of awe and wonder in the minds of the viewers of her new venture as she did back then with Firaaq. The beauty of the film lies in its very foundation and how it was built up thereafter. Many good films are marred by their poor writing only to be revived by their other aspects, but Manto is a classic example of an all-round show of excellence in every facet of filmmaking including its writing which is terrifically strong. Its dialogues are powerful and instigate a questioning nature in the viewer’s mind owing to the nihilistic and depressing interpretation of the society by its eponymous character. A lot of what Saadat Hasan Manto said back more than half a century ago are realised to be plausible by people in the present era of liberalisation. So, it’s only fair that one who sees this movie falls in love with the nature and philosophies of its protagonist. Now, this is where I feel the film turns a little bit dishonest.
Every human being has virtues and vices and Manto Sahib was not a different beast in this regard. We don’t really see the nettling aspects of him in the movie as all his negative facets are depicted with a lot of sympathies. Even his egoistic nature, alcoholic abuse and negative reaction towards any sorts of criticism are credited to his troubled life and not his innate characteristics. Nevertheless, I also understand that most people won’t find this thing to be any bothering and doing this must have been a conscious decision from the view of the makers who probably feared that the film’s impact would be weakened if the flaws of its protagonist are fleshed out.
Manto does have a rota of incredibly talented actors but it’s unambiguously true that the audience was there for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Portraying the titular character was a fresh entry into Siddiqui’s acting resume which is crowded with gangster kind of roles and similar stuff. Even in this new avatar, he impresses beyond belief as he effortlessly transcends between the polarizing aspects of his character’s emotions and predicaments. His dialogue delivery is taut and his demeanour appropriately showcases the integrity of the character he is playing. Though Manoj Bajpayee’s act in Gali Guleiyan is still my favourite performance of this year, I’d dare to say that Siddiqui’s portrayal in and as Manto is the strongest contender for the Best Actor Awards in the following year.
Siddiqui gets a splendid support from the other cast members who prove to be as effective as him no matter how brief their appearances are. Rasika Duggal, Rajashri Deshpande and Tahir Raj Bhasin, who have more prominent roles are equally stellar in their respective places. The film also witnesses some fiery cameos by veterans Ranvir Shorey, Paresh Rawal, Divya Dutta and Tillotama Shome.
Final Verdict: –
Ten years after directing a classic, Nandita Das returns to deliver another classic in the form of Manto. Any eulogy of the film isn’t enough to convey its greatness in both cinematic and thematic terms. Nawazuddin Siddiqui delivers one of his career-best performances, if not the best, and gets a fine support from the other cast members who also shine in their own spaces. Manto is not only a great biographical film but also a thought-provoking piece of art which will leave its viewers in awe long after the film has concluded.