<Review by: Swati Sharan>


Directed by: Nandita Das. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Duggal, Tahir Bhasin, Feryna Wazheir, Javed Akhtar, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Vinod Nagpal, Ila Arun, Ranvir Shorey, Paresh Rawal, Tillotama Shome

Running time: 1 hour 52 minutes


Many would have heard of the famous Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto. But how many will recall the life of the satirical writer himself?


We are first transported to Mumbai where independence from the British and the Partition are on the horizon in 1946. We are given a glimpse of Manto (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in the context of Bollywood in that era with the likes of many eminent personalities including Ashok Kumar and Ismat Chugtai. During this time, Manto seems to be having a ball. He has no intention of leaving Mumbai though he is being pressured to move to Lahore.

But the effects of Partition wear him down when one of his friends and famous actor Shyam Chaddha gets provoked enough to proclaim that Muslims should be killed as an after effect of having lost his own family in Lahore. Upon seeing such a 360 degree turn, Manto decides he needs to leave his beloved city because he doesn’t think it’s safe for him any longer. He moves to Lahore in the new Pakistan but goes through one struggle after another. This includes fighting a long court case for a controversial story called ‘Cold Meat’ and not getting his financial dues for it. Yet inspite of many of his friends from Bollywood pleading with him to come back, Manto resists. Instead, he languishes financially and emotionall, subsequently developing a drinking problem and then passes away.


Manto was known for his sharp witticisms and criticism of social mores in such an open way that was unfathomable for that period. His belief was: “What’s wrong with people talking about what goes on openly?”

In perhaps a rare effort of Indian cinema do we see with great accuracy and details the life of an acclaimed figure with great authenticity and humanness. In terms of authentic re-enactments, one can even notice the gradual change in Urdu diction from the time period in which our writer is shown in Mumbai to when he goes to Lahore. Period costumes, background music and art direction are perfect. Siddiqui and the cast exude the living legends they portray in their every breath. Portions of Manto’s stories ‘Cold Meat’ and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ have also been woven into the fabric of this film. Manto is a brilliantly crafted biopic seldom found in Indian cinema.


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