Manto at Cannes: Festivals are the ultimate judge of good cinema, says Nandita Das | bollywood | Hindustan Times
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Manto at Cannes: Festivals are the ultimate judge of good cinema, says Nandita Das

Actor-director Nandita Das talks about the importance of film festivals, and showcasing her Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer directorial Manto at the Cannes Film Festival.

bollywood Updated: Jul 07, 2017 16:42 IST
Nandita says it was very challenging to direct Manto, especially, as she was trying to shoot it in a small budget to make it viable.
Nandita says it was very challenging to direct Manto, especially, as she was trying to shoot it in a small budget to make it viable.

Nandita Das is a regular at the Cannes Film festival, and she finds the festival “fascinating”. She says, “Such festivals are a great platform to showcase your films and meet various creative talents. Cannes is a haven for films and people connected to films. Usually, people put festivals on a pedestal, as if they are the ultimate judge of good cinema. Or we dumb them down and coin terms like festival films. But neither is right. Festivals provide a huge platform for a lot of film-lovers, producers, industry people, etc.” The actor-turned-director is at the French Riviera to showcase three minutes of her directorial Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Rasika Dugal.

She has been to the film festival often since her first visit in 2005. She looks forward to a range of movies and “not just one particular kind”. “From mainstream Hollywood to independent films, there are all sorts of movies. I saw some amazing films from Kazakhstan and Taiwan. There are numerous sections which showcase some wonderful films but I haven’t been able to see much this year,” adds the Bawandar (2000) actor.

The film Manto narrates the life of one of the most irreverent writers of his era - Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955). Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the titular role.

Cannes is synonymous with fashion and the red carpet as Indian actors, seen at the festival, ensure they look their best. But Nandita feels that is “unfortunate”. She says, “The Indian media only focuses on the fashion aspect while, otherwise, there is a lot more happening at Cannes — from competing films to panel discussions. I have been part of many such discussions including ones about women directors and women behind the camera, diversity, the difference films make in a social changes, etc.”

Nawazuddin will bring alive the various shades of Manto with acclaimed actress Rasika Dugal essaying the character of his wife; Safia.

Nandita admits she has never been a fashionista but she “takes care to dress well”. “Everyone wants to look good and I take care about how I dress, like you would for any event and not just Cannes. One doesn’t have to be obsessed about it [fashion]. You do the best you can but it is not a high priority.”

The first look of this feature film based on the life of Manto directed by Nandita Das, was launched at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival 2017.

Nandita claims she enjoyed directing Manto. “This is a period film and an ambitious project and not easy at all [to make]. It was very challenging, especially, as we were trying to shoot it in a small budget to make it viable. You want such films to be viable as you want independent cinema to flourish and reach out to a larger audience. If producers make money, more people will have faith in such projects.” She admits it was tough to “recreate that period as it isn’t easy because one has to work around the modern day clutter”. Nandita was thrilled with the reception of the short footage shown at Cannes along with script reading by Nawazuddin at the festival. “I had so much work to do that I had no time to be nervous,” she signs off.

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