Nuzhat Arshad on Manto: People should know the loving father he was
Manto's daughters on why they agreed to part with his story for the Nandita Das-helmed biopic
Determined to be true to the story of Saadat Hasan Manto in her biopic featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, director Nandita Das dedicated 10 years to discover the man behind the enigma. It was her passion that won over the writer's daughters, Nuzhat Arshad and Nusrat Jalal, thus convincing them to part with their story.
In a chat with mid-day, Arshad reveals that she first met Das in Lahore in March 2007. "I believe Manto's personal life hasn't been given its due share of coverage. People should know the loving father and affectionate husband that he was. He was castigated during his lifetime, but he continues to be as relevant today as he was sixty-three years ago."
Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Manto
Though his works were pertinent, obscenity charges were levelled against many of his creations. The repeated defamatory allegations sent Manto plunging into the abyss of alcoholism, which, in turn, pushed his family into poverty. However, Arshad credits mother Safia for shielding them in troubled times. "As for our father, he saw a reflection of him in me and nicknamed me Jujiajee. He used to make me sit on his lap and sing Chanda Rai Ja Rai," she says.
Jalal remembers her father as a man who firmly believed in gender equality. "Manto did not shy away from helping around the house. He would even sweep the floor, so that his daughters could crawl around. He also made toys for us from discarded cigarette boxes and matchsticks."
Pakistani director Sarmad Khoosat had brought Manto's life to the big screen with his 2015 eponymous offering. But Arshad believes that Das's rendition will unravel other facets of the famed writer. "Nandita worked closely with the family to understand the intricacies of Manto on a personal level, unlike Sarmad who never bothered asking us about what he was like as a person."
Jalal chimes in, "Nandita has essentially focussed on my father's life when he was in Bombay. Sarmad's focus, on the other hand, was on Manto's life in Lahore. He intended to make a television serial, but eventually condensed it and released it as a film."
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