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Rasika Dugal: My only regret is I can't play Manto

She is eagerly awaiting to delve into the 1940s era after being penciled in to play Saadat Hasan Manto's wife Safia in Nandita Das's directorial on the literary genius. But actress Rasika Dugal says she regrets how she can't essay the "wonderful" role of the multi-faceted writer, who will be brought alive on the silver screen by Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

"I hadn't heard about Safia, Manto's wife. Very often, we don't hear about writers' family and instead we know about their muses or relationship with other writers and friendships. So, I had heard about Manto's friendships, but never about his wife. Nandita mentioned it to me," Rasika told IANS in an interview on her role in the movie, titled "Manto".

Until then, this character was unknown to Rasika, who delivered an indelible performance as Neeli in Anup Singh's "Qissa".

She understood more about the 'qissa' of Safia when Nandita wrote an article for an online news platform.

"Unlike many writers and artists who have had muses galore and history has forgiven them for their transgressions, Manto was a family man. This was quite uncharacteristic for a writer who defied norms, challenged social morality and poked a finger in the eye of the establishment. This contradiction was rather unique," Nandita wrote.

Rasika was amused.

"I never looked at Manto like that, never thought of him like that," she said of the India-born writer who migrated to Pakistan and is celebrated for his daring stories on the subcontinent's partition in 1947.

Nevertheless, Rasika is "more excited than worried" about working on a real life character whom she knew nothing about until some months ago.

"The script has a lot to offer any way. Also, I am very happy to understand the pace of life at that time; what relationships meant to people back then, how they chose to maintain friendship, love, marriage... and what these things meant as opposed to today," said the Film and Television Institute of India alumnus, who feels she is made for the 1940s as she enjoys a slow pace of life.

What she is also upbeat about is working with National Award-winning and acclaimed actor Nawazuddin.

"I think he has such a great role. After reading the script, the only regret I have is that I can't play Manto. That's my only regret. It is such a wonderful role for an actor, and I am sure Nawazuddin will do a fantastic job of it.

"Whatever he has done so far has been very impressive. I am looking forward to watching him closely working on it, and that for me will be another kind of treat," said the artiste, who has been active on the theatre scene with popular play "The Vagina Monologues".

The project on Manto is yet to go on floors. Nandita is on a summer break with her son and once she returns, she will dive into it.

Talking of Nandita, who is an actor par excellence herself and first helmed the 2008 film "Firaaq", Rasika said: "Whenever I have met her, I have only been impressed. She always comes across as a very straightforward, clean and intelligent person. And in all her interactions, I have always seen her as gracious and graceful.

"I am really looking forward to interacting with her on the set."

This project was announced earlier this year, and Rasika is happy that she has finally got some work for which she has "time to work on".

"Usually things happen at a crazy speed, and then we are always juggling between things. But there has been a while when this project was announced and we have had the time to work on it. It's a joy to work on a film on this pace, and I am very glad it is happening like this."

For now, starting July 11, she will be seen as an anchor on the second season of Epic channel's unique TV show "Devlok with Devdutt Pattanaik", which explores epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

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