Nandita Das



The story

Manto is based on the four most tumultuous years (1946-1950) in the life of Saadat Hasan Manto, the maverick writer. It is set during the Independence of India from the British, leading to the Partition of the country. As sectarian violence engulfs India, Manto is compelled to make the difficult choice of leaving his beloved Bombay for the newly born Pakistan, he finds himself bereft of friends, unable to get his writings published and burdened by trials for alleged obscene writing. His increasing alcoholism and anguish take a toll on his family and lead him on a downward spiral.

Through all of this, Manto continues to write prolifically, his works mirroring the harsh realities of the time. Facts and fiction overlap, blurring the line between his works and the main narrative, his life. They are inseparable. The end title simply reads: Saadat Hasan died at 42. Manto lives on.

Director’s note

I first read Manto when I was in college and was struck by his simple yet profound short stories. He wrote as he saw, as he felt, without dilution. But it was in 2012, around his centenary celebration, that I was introduced to his essays. That is when I got to know more about Manto, the person and the world he inhabited. I also began reading what others wrote about him and before I knew it, the journey of making my second film had begun.

What drew me to Manto was his free spirit and courage to stand up against orthodoxy of all kinds. As I plunged deeper into Manto’s life, I wondered why he seemed so familiar. I soon realised that it was because it made me think about my father. He is an artist, and like Manto, intuitively unconventional, a misunderstood misfit and fearlessly blunt – an idealist loner. Knowing him helped me understand Manto better.

The film is culturally and socially rooted, yet International in its cinematic sensibility. I feel fortunate that all three of Manto’s daughters and his grandniece Ayesha Jalal, an eminent historian, gave me their unconditional support and shared valuable research material. I scripted, with the help of many, an intimate retelling of the times, seen through the eyes of this intensely engaged writer, the likes of whom we have seldom seen. The spirit of Manto is the spirit of the film.

Year : 2018

Language : Hindi & Urdu

Festivals :

Premiere at Cannes Film Festival - Un Certain Regard, 2018

Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Best Performance for Male Actor, 2018

Toronto International Film Festival, 2018

Busan International Film Festival, 2018

BFI London Film Festival, 2018

Sydney Film Festival, 2018

International Film Festival of Kerala, 2018


Those we know

“Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s portrayal of Manto is excellent. So is the recreation of Mumbai of the 1940s, known then as Bombay. Well written, credible performances, excellent direction - in short, a very good film.”

- Shyam Benegal, Filmmaker

“Rush to see and savour Manto the film. Nandita Das has made a cinematic satisfying, near-brilliant work of a genius & his time. Superbly acted by each one, a terrific integration of Manto’s life & work.”

- Mira Nair, Filmmaker

What an extraordinary achievement directorially and unbelievable performances. Loved the way each shot composed the actors’ faces and the way it was lit. Can’t believe this film was achieved in that low a cost. Nawazuddin’s performance as Manto is easily his best, and that makes me jealous. What an ingenious casting of Gurdas Mann, Rasika, Rajshri, Tillotama and Tahir and everyone across the board.”

- Anurag Kashyap, Filmmaker

“Manto has kept me awake all night. I understood and felt the pain that those who witnessed the Partition of 1947 despite not having seen it. I was so disturbed by the sadness that Manto felt. What a beautiful film. This film really disturbed me.”

- Ila Arun, Singer/Actor (also in Manto)

“Manto is still with me, lyrical and nuanced. The politics and the message is there of course, but not in your face. When the impact of violence can take you to hell, you don't need to see the blood spill.”

- Aruna Roy, Social Activist

“The extraordinary directorial success lies in what Nandita Das has avoided. Despite the world’s finest short stories at her disposal, she has refrained from creating a catalogue of Manto masterpieces, however seductive the idea may have been.”

- Saeed Naqvi

Those who review

“Nandita Das’ Manto is a deeply moving narrative of how similar the world is today to Manto’s times, how people are still getting uprooted and being turned into refugees, homeless and helpless. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who certainly looks like Manto, infuses a degree of subtle strength into Das’ work.”

- Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times

“Das appreciates the thought-provoking ideas of Manto but she stays away from the blinders that forbid her to see her muse’s flaws. She is fascinated with the philosophy of Manto but she can clearly see Saadat’s truth… Manto by Nandita Das is a fine example of how a biopic should be treated and this could serve as a guiding light to many makers who are churning out biopics by the dozen.”

- Sampada Sharma, The Indian Express

“Manto isn't a story of our times but it's a story for our time. It's a powerful reaction to everything that we are witnessing in the country… Das has made a film that pierces our conscience and makes us question our own culpability. Under the guise of Mantoiyat, Das is telling us that we are currently at a time when staying silent is no longer an option.”

- Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post India

“She comes so close to Manto that, at times, the man speaks to us beyond this movie. Like the writers’ short stories, the film never repeats itself, has no patience to state the obvious.”

- Tanul Thakur, The Wire India

“Writer/Director Nandita Das has written a brilliant script depicting the rise and fall of a genius mind. Reality and imagination get juxtaposed as instances from Manto’s life get fused with sequences from some of his famous stories.”

- Devesh Sharma, Filmfare

"Das vividly depicts the dereliction of Lahore in 1948 in contrast to the swinging mood of 1946 Bombay and delves into Manto’s darkening psyche. Recreations of his short stories also give a sense of the chaos and cruelty running rampant all around him, and the anger and pessimism he feels.”

- Maggie Lee, Variety

Virata Parvam


Director: Udugula Venu

Language: Telugu

Character Name: Shakuntala

Key Cast: Kundan Alexzed, Chakrapani Ananda, Banerjee

Feastivals and Awards: NA

Film Stills: 9

BTS: 11