(L-r) Actors Rasika Dugal and Nawazuddin Siddiqui and director Nandita Das attend “The Manto ‘In Conversation’” at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, May 23, 2017, in Cannes, France. (Pierre Suu/Getty Images for Viacom18)
The concept of censoring films by a board is “faulty,” said noted actor-filmmaker Nandita Das, asserting that a handful of people cannot decide what an entire nation wants to see, writes Meraj Bhat.
The 48-year-old film personality said it was very “dangerous” that some self-proclaimed custodians of culture were telling people what was right and wrong.
“Larger censorship issues are coming up now. If art has to flourish, it needs freedom. The whole concept of a censor board and to censor films in itself is faulty. How can a handful of people decide what all of us as a nation want to see?” she said at the Jaipur Literature festival, in Jaipur, Jan. 26.
“They are actually undermining the audience. They are belittling you (audience) by saying that we know what you should watch and should not watch. If we are not going to fight for our freedom, who will?” she asked.
Speaking from the packed Front Lawns of the iconic Diggi Palace, the award-winning artist spoke at length about her upcoming film on celebrated writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. The lead actor of the film Nawazuddin Siddiqui was also in attendance.
Das said she chose ‘Manto’ as a subject for her film not because of his religion or nationality, but for what the writer stood for.
“Manto defined himself as a human being beyond the identities of nationalism and religion. He was a big champion of free speech and fought many battles. He was tried for obscenity six times. He wrote stories that were raw and truthful. He had deep conviction and that gave him a lot of courage.
“He is so relevant today and his work is the best way to respond to contemporary times. That is why, I felt Manto was the right person to talk about in my film,” she said.
Das, though, admitted that she would never make a period film again because it became extremely difficult to recreate a previous period due to the “clutter” that sets in with passage of time, which eventually spoils everything.
The filmmaker said she found similarities between Manto and Nawazuddin’s anger, sense of humor and arrogance, while revealing that the actor had not charged a dime for the film.
Asked about which historical character he would like to play, Nawazuddin said he would love to portray Dilip Kumar’s character in the iconic film “Mughal-e-Azam.”
“I would definitely love to do it. My personality is often underestimated. People think I am good at doing roles of a gangster only, but I can do ‘royal-type’ roles too. I find them interesting,” he said.
Opening up about his role in “Manto,” Nawazuddin said, “The biggest difficulty in playing Manto was being a truthful person. I speak a lot of lies, was polluted and had to purify myself before playing the titular role.”
The actor said his upbringing in a secular set up was the reason for his sound understanding of Hinduism.
He said the commercial aspect of a film has prompted him to dance, something he otherwise would never imagine of doing.