Saadat Hasan Manto’s courage and struggle to express himself are important at a time when the freedom of speech is often under attack, says Rasika Dugal, who is playing the famous short-story writer’s wife Safia in a biopic. The actor says Manto’s work reflects sheer fearlessness, which is rare because it has become too difficult for people to say what they want to.
“Just being with Manto’s stories in the last few months has been an empowering experience. I’ve read many of his short stories but I’d not read his essays before. It makes you feel close to Manto in a sense,” Rasika told PTI. “Also, the freedom of speech is something which is being tested in the times that we’re living in now and his work could not be more relevant. That’s something I really want to carry from him – the fearlessness and the courage.”
The Nandita Das-directed movie features Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manto. The film’s first look was unveiled at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Wearing a printed cotton saree with small hoops and round spectacles in the film, Rasika has done her best to match what Safia would have looked like. The actress, however, was a little nervous about working with her talented co-actor.
“I have a lot of respect for Nawaz. I really look up to him. I was a little nervous because of that respect for him as an actor. I was like, ‘I hope, I’m able to match up to his skills’. But Nawaz is so funny and relaxed. I was excited that he was playing Manto because if you have a good co-actor and in this case, the brilliant one, then your job is done. You just have to be on the set and the scene will work.” Rasika recently wrapped up shooting her part for the film and says she is already feeling emotional about it. “I’m sort of feeling the void of not having it around in my life anymore. I had expected it to be a beautiful experience and it was more than that. I think three of us sort of shared a common sense of humour. They are friends now and there’s a bond that I hope to keep with me.” She is known for doing independent films like Kshay and Qissa, which had done exceptionally well in international film festivals, but Rasika says she is equally open to opportunities in commercial cinema.
“I’ve always been open to it. Nobody is asking me. I haven’t attached the label of independent cinema artiste to myself, people have. I’m happy to move out of that zone and try other things. I’ve been offered some parts in commercial films which have not been satisfying. But I’ll be very happy to do a meaty role in a commercial film. I’m just waiting for it.”, she said.