Manto tells the story of Saadat Hasan Manto, an important and controversial Indian writer. The film details his experience of the Indian partition and his forced emigration to Pakistan where he struggles to find the same success as a writer. He writes short, violent stories about the experiences he sees around him, which unfortunately brings obscenity accusations. As he spends more and more time in court defending himself, his sadness and alcoholism deepen.
Director Nandita Das created a palpable sense of atmosphere. There’s beauty and clear attention detail in her vision of Bombay and Lahore in the late 1940s. A terrifying tension surrounds Manto as his country divides further and further.
Some of Manto’s short stories are staged in the film, occasionally only revealing themselves to be a story at their conclusion, blurring the line between reality and his invention. The effect is a very personal perspective of the horrors of sectarian violence.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is authoritative and subtly tragic as Manto. As the obscenity trials become more and more absurd you can see the hope drain from him that he might be able to work as he wishes.
Manto is a powerful and poignant film about the suffering in India caused by religious intolerance, told from a singular and fascinating perspective.
4 / 5