‘All Stars I Approached Said No To Manto’

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Mumbai: Actress Nandita Das says she is having a tough time in casting for the role of Shyam in her upcoming film “Manto”, which is based on the life of writer Saadat Hasan Manto.

Nawazuddin is playing the titular role but the actress-filmmaker faced issues while casting for Manto’s closest friend, Sunder Shyam Chadda.

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In her latest article published in The Week, Nandita said she approached many young “stars” from the film industry to play ‘Shyam’ but everyone said no.

“…I thought that known young charming actors, wanting to play the layered character of Shyam, would be in abundance.

Intriguingly, all the ‘stars’ I approached said no without even reading the script or asking any questions about the role that was being offered.

“Their sole reason for declining was that Shyam would be seen as the ‘second lead’. As Nawazuddin Siddiqui, an accomplished actor, is playing Manto, I want to ensure that Shyam is no less,” Nandita wrote.

The actress, who made her directorial debut with “Firaaq,” said for actors road to stardom is only through playing the lead and be “heroic”.

“With every potential actor that I approached, I understood the connection between the roles they choose and the perception of their ‘worth in the market’. In simple terms, the road to stardom is to play the lead, have the girl and be heroic in the climax.

“I thought I could work around this by offering a credit of ‘special appearance’ or ‘many thanks to’ kind of status, elevating it from what they call a second lead. But to no avail,” she continued.

The actress said the easiest way out for her is to cast a newcomer, but the financiers want a star who can pull crowd to theaters and assure a good opening at the box office.

Nandita believes even after spending around two decades in the industry she has not understood how the market of films works.

“After 40 films and 20 years of being on the fringes of the film industry, I realised how little I knew about market forces and what drives them. I never saw acting as a career, freeing me from insecurities and image building.

“For me, the excitement has always been about being part of stories that must be told and the promise of them being well-told. Guess I can only think like myself,” she wrote.

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