“It’s such a gratifying feeling,” said Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the joy evident in his voice. Speaking to us hours after the screening of Nandita Das’ Manto at the Cannes Film Festival last evening, he said, “People had tears in their eyes. I could see that I had done well by the way people were responding to my performance. Nandita has created a fantastic film. As actors, we do our bit and walk off. It’s she who has woven a wonderful tapestry, interspersing Manto’s works with his personal journey.”
Siddiqui is no stranger to the French Riviera. After his Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012) won hearts in the prestigious festival, Manto was selected in the Un Certain Regard segment this year. Admitting that he was “busy picking faults in my work” during the screening, Siddiqui adds, “Actors are poor judges of their own work. But, we have a good sense of what counts as a good film. I could gauge that Manto is a good movie from the raw emotions people had in their eyes.”
As Nawazuddin Siddiqui slipped into the role of Saadat Hasan Manto, the actor said his biggest takeaway was that truth always remains relevant. He cited an interesting example in Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi whose Three Faces opened to a thunderous response on Saturday. Like Manto, Panahi, too has faced the wrath of his homeland after his works offered a critique of modern Iran. “Manto fought for his freedom of speech and look how relevant it is right now. This exemplary filmmaker has been banned. Such a coincidence,” he exclaimed.