Manto is all about, the maverick writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, and the film deals with the writer’s last two years in Mumbai and ends with his financial, personal and legal woes in the newly-created Pakistan where he is hauled over the coals for his chilling short story, Thanda Gosht (Cold Meat).
His brushes with the legal system and an increasingly unsupportive publishing industry send him into a tailspin even as he continues to produce incredibly power short stories.
For me, the highlight of this was when Manto is forced into making a choice. India or Pakistan. He chooses the latter and then starts his struggles with narrow-minded authorities. During the partition, he finds himself carrying both a Hindu topi and a Muslim topi to get out of sticky situations, but the struggle gets stickier.
We also get to his the downward slide of a man squandering his prodigious talent and the affection of his loved ones.
What can I say about the performances, well, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Saadat Hasan Manto, Divya Dutta as Kulwant Kaur, Rasika Dugal as Safia, Tahir Raj Bhasin as Shyam, and Rajshri Deshpande as Ismat Chugtai are almost flawless.
The maestro Zakir Hussain’s background score is mindblowing. The music is so perfectly crafted that it adds beauty to every single frame of the film. Cinematographer Kartik Vijay, sound designer Resul Pookutty, editor A. Sreekar Prasad and production designer Rita Ghosh add sparkle to this film.
However, one needs to applaud Nandita Das and her team of writers for belting out this one. The film is very beautifully put together and is an experience in itself.
All in all, Manto is highly watchable, thought-provoking and beautifully put together. In fact, it’s like a poetry in motion. Yes, it’s his film does not fall into the commercial realm, but this one must be wanted.
Rating: Three And A Half