There’s a reason Nandita Das’ chose to make Manto and it’s not just because he’s a great writer.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, the director said her film should not be debated on why it’s based on a man rather celebrated for representing a good sensitive man.
“I think a woman, in any field that is primarily male-dominated, invariably there are stereotypes. Women directors are expected to make a certain type of films. I have been asked often, why as a strong voice for women, I chose to make a film on a man and not a woman. But isn’t celebrating good sensitive men equally important? In today’s time, in our privileged class of people it’s difficult to confront sexism as it is very subtle,” said Das.
Speaking on female-oriented films she added: A film is not feminist only if it is a women oriented film.
“I am concerned about the way a women is portrayed. Are they layered and representative of the diversity that exists in society? People ask how does it feels to be a woman director… I don’t know how it feels to be a male director! When you are directing, you aren’t aware of your gender, you are simply directing. But it is also a fact that you bring with you a female gaze that is based on your life experiences.”
Manto is Das’ second directorial after Firaaq (2008), and she has chosen to portray the writer through her film because she feels he is still as relevant today as he was back then. Her aim is to hold a “mirror to our prejudices, fears, morality” through this film.
“People often want to label things. I would say it’s a film for all, across nationality, age and gender. It is a film that celebrates what I call the ‘Mantoiyat’ in all of us. By Mantoiyat, I mean the free-spiritedness, the will to be more honest, more courageous about things we care for.”
She continued, “Those who are Mantoesque, live lives on their own terms. Manto penned very personal and intimate stories. He is someone who was misunderstood, even by fellow progressives. The film raises multiple questions. After 71 years of independence, have we really progressed? Have we really changed? The film is a mirror to our prejudices, fears, morality. Like Manto wrote, “My stories are a mirror to society. But if you don’t like what you see, then how is that my fault.”