Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui who played the lead role in ‘Manto’, a biopic of the legendary writer recently sat down with an Indian publication. The actor talked candidly and opened up about his upcoming role and the hard work that went into it. Tell us something about ‘Manto’ I’d read his stories, so when I bumped into Nandita (Das, director) back in 2013 and she told me she was planning a biopic on Manto, I agreed to be a part of it. Four years later, after completing her research, she introduced me to the man, his world and his thoughts. I had no idea till then that Manto had been an alcoholic and was so prolific he could write a story while being jostled in a crowd. I also didn’t know about the obscenity cases against him or that he was quite the family man. Do you see glimpses of yourself in him? Yes, there are times when I’m so immersed in a role, I cease to be a part of the real world. Physically I’m there, but mentally I’ve zoned out. Manto spoke the truth fearlessly and often brutally, and that got him into trouble. You used to be pretty outspoken yourself once… If you read the interviews I gave in 2012, you will see that I said what I thought. But then I began to realise that mere sach bolne se problem ho rahi hai (problems arise due to me telling the truth) so I began manipulating it. I’d say what was permissible, what people wanted to hear, till I entered the Manto zone. Then, for about two-three months, I was back to speaking the truth truthwithout embellishments. But society can be very judgmental: It didn’t matter that I had admitted to certain shortcomings myself. I wasn’t appreciated for my honesty. Instead, my confessions went against me. So, I figured there was no point in spoiling my public image when I was getting work — mujhe jhooth bolna chahiye (I should lie). Don’t the lies make you feel guilty? Of course, I feel terribly guilty. When I am alone, I reprimand myself for all the lies I’ve told so that logon ke samne meri achchi image bani rahe (so that my image in front of the public is kept positive). What to do? Zamana yehi sunna chahta hai (this is what they want to hear). Any last-minute jitters as you prepare to resurrect Manto on-screen? Reviews se bahut dar lagta hai (I’m very afraid of the reviews). I was very nervous when I went with to Cannes – it was unexpected but encouraging when reviews in publications like The Hollywood Reporteranalysed the film and my performance in great detail. Here, we are more focused on entertainment. We want films to make us laugh and cry while Hollywood is looking for films that make them think. Here everyone is a critic – a film and all the hard work we put in it, is dismissed with two stars. Published in Daily Times, September 18th 2018.