(From left) Nandita Das, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Duggal
Legendary Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto was also known to be a doting father and caring husband, one who would actively do household chores and insist on taking his wife for mushairas. But the literary world harped on his relationship with writer Ismat Chughtai.
However, Nandita Das, in her upcoming directorial, a biopic on Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, decided to shine the light on his wife, Safiyah. Though she was invariably the first to read all of Manto's stories, little has been documented on her.
"Nandita's research on his work and life has been quite comprehensive. She is just waiting to see what we bring to the table based on our own research and understanding of Manto. She gifted me a collection of his stories called Dastavez to help me with my prep," says Rasika Duggal, who plays Safiyah in the film.
Rasika understands Manto and Chughtai's relationship was one of respect. "I think they shared a very interesting camaraderie where they were appreciative of each other's work and defended it when required, but were also critical of it in a healthy way," she says.
To many, Safiyah was Manto's muse, but also a woman overshadowed by her successful spouse. Rasika, however, retorts, "I don't see her as a figure overshadowed by her husband. That's how you and I might look at it from the outside because we have only heard of her through him. But did she feel like that? I am banking on Nawaz. He is perfect for the part. He is a charming romantic."