Cannes: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the poster boy of Mumbai’s independent cinema, is in Cannes this year with Nandita Das for the entry of their latest film Manto, the actor’s sixth film in the world’s premier film festival in a span of seven years.
No Bollywood actor has ever had as many films across various sections of the Cannes Film Festival. In 2012, two films featuring Siddiqui in pivotal roles in Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely and Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2 played on the Croisette.
Manto, a biopic about a prolific Urdu short story writer who chronicled the horrors of partition in stark, scalding ways, is the first film in which Siddiqui plays a real-life icon.
“In essaying this role, I had to be totally honest not as an actor but as a human being,” the actor said in an interview following the premiere of Manto here on Sunday.
Right from the outset, Nawazuddin said, Nandita and he had decided that “everything about the portrayal of Manto would have to be totally truthful.” He added: “Of course, I had do internalize the man completely, then achieve the physical similarities and get the dialogue delivery right, but this performance had to go beyond the actor’s craft.”
“I loved the process. It was absolutely fascinating,” Nawazuddin said. “I was worried initially whether I would be able to achieve what I needed to. So I threw myself unconditonally into the role during the three months that we shot the film. My job ended there. Now it is for the audience to respond. That is not in my control.”
Ironically, Bollywood’s big-screen Manto will be seen next impersonating the late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, a figure on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. “I will play Thackeray with the same honesty with which I have sought to play Manto,” said Nawazuddin.
The film will showcase many aspects of Bal Thackeray’s life, including 1993 Mumbai Riots.
In Mumbai Riots 1993, around 900 people died. The riots were mainly due to escalations of hostilities after large-scale protests by Muslims in reaction to the 1992 Babri Masjid Demolition by Hindu Karsevaks in Ayodhya.
“There is a lot that an actor can do with the character of Thackeray,” says Nawazuddin.
The film will release in Hindi-Marathi and also be dubbed in English and will be released on Balasaheb Thackeray’s 93rd birth anniversary on 23 January 2019.