'Manto' more relevant today than ever: Rasika Dugal

At a time when artists in India are fighting for freedom of expression, actor Rasika Dugal says her upcoming film Manto, which traces the life of Urdu short story writer Sadat Hassan Manto, "unfortunately" resonates with the current wave of dissent and emotions. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's historical drama Padmavati has been facing protests from Hindu groups backed by the BJP and some critics have even issued violent threats. Another row has erupted over the films S Durga and Nude.

"I think there is threat for freedom of speech in every aspect, not just in cinema. Therefore, 'Manto' is more relevant today than ever unfortunately. I wish it wasn't like this," said the actor.
"We are struggling with the same issue in a big way. Death of freedom of speech is one thing that I am worried about and worried that it will affect cinema and other art forms." Manto, who died in 1955 at age 43, had penned an impressive body of work touching various genres.
He churned out 22 collections of stories comprising a novel, essays, personal sketches and movie scripts. One of his literary gems was a story on Mirza Ghalib, a poet often compared with William Shakespeare. Manto's work also gained attention for stories around the ordeal of India's partition as well as sexuality. Nandita Das is directing Manto, which features Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role. Rasika will be seen as Safia Manto, wife of Manto, in the movie.
Talking about Manto on the sidelines of the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Rasika said, "It is a very special film for me. This project has given me a lot of recognition by just being associated with the project because of the kind of reputation that Nandita comes with and also Nawaz."
"Manto has been the writer who has influenced me a lot since my college days. I am so happy to be associated with the project and to be able to delve into his writing more and be able to get into his life more." Rasika says she had fun working with Nandita and Nawazuddin.
The film will be in theatres by the middle of next year. Rasika hopes Manto gets the "release it deserves".



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