Nandita Das’s ‘Manto’ Gets A Space At Cannes

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Mumbai: The biographical film on writer Saadat Hasan Manto is the only Indian film to have made it to the official selection at the festival this year.

Actor-filmmaker Nandita Das’ sophomore film Manto will be competing in the 71st Cannes Film Festival’s official “Un Certain Regard” section. The festival is being held this year from May 8-19. The biographical film on the celebrated Indo-Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role, is the only Indian film to have made it to the official selection at the festival this year.

In a Facebook post Das wrote: “Last few days of uncertainty and anticipation was weighing on the entire cast and crew, that has put in all their passion and hard work. While Cannes is the most prestigious platform for the film, and a great start, the journey will be complete only when we get to share it with all of you. Having been on the jury twice, and an audience at Cannes many a time, I have to say, it is truly a haven for film lovers. I look forward to seeing how the audience there reacts to this film that I have lived with for almost 7 years.

For me, this film and everything else that I do, will always remain a means to trigger conversations, a small step towards “the world we want to see”.”

“At times like this, a film which strongly defends freedom of speech should reach a wide audience not just in our country but across the world. Manto was about fearlessness. Of fearlessness with sensitivity. And that is something to nurture and celebrate,” actor Rasika Duggal, who plays Manto’s wife Safiya in the film, told.

The poster of the film and some footage and images were unveiled at the India pavilion at Marche du Film (Film Market) at the 2017 Cannes Film Festivallast year. A live script-reading session with Siddiqui was conducted in the HP Studio in Le Majestic hotel.

In a brief interaction at the festival last year Das had said that she first narrated the idea of the film to Siddiqui at Cannes on the steps of Palais de Festivale at an earlier edition of the festival. Siddiqui said that for him the most outstanding aspect about Mantowas that he always dared to speak the truth. Das had also said that the film would be significant in today’s “post truth” times when “we are questioning truth, giving alternative ‘facts’.” “At a time when everyone is self-censoring we need such a voice that can inspire us,” she had stated.

Das has served twice on the jury of Cannes Film Festival. In 2005, she was on the main competition jury alongside Faith Akin, Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek, Benoît Jacquot, Emir Kusturica, Toni Morrison, Agnès Varda, and John Woo. In 2013, she was part of the Cinéfondation and short films jury with Jane Campion, Maji-da Abdi, Nicoletta Braschi, and Semih Kaplanoğlu.

In 2011 she received the Government of France’s Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), one of the nation’s highest civilian awards. She was commended for her “contribution towards the development of Indo-French cooperation in the field of cinema.”

Un Certain Regard literally translates as “a certain glance”. The section celebrates works with original vision and style and non-traditional story-telling. In 2015, Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaanhad won Prix avenir prometteur (Promising Future prize) and the Fipresci award in the section.

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