New Delhi: From struggling to find funds, proper locations to actors, Nandita Das faced many challenges in her quest to make a film on celebrated Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto.
Das, who is returning to direction after 2009 film Firaaq, said the movie is not a conventional biopic as she has tried to balance different facets of Manto's "incredibly interesting" personality.
"It has definitely been the most challenging project of my life. When I did 'Firaaq', I thought it was the most challenging (one). Then I had a child and I thought ok...
People don't tell you enough about how it is to be pregnant and have a child. But joys and challenges always come together... So 'Manto', in that sense, is my third baby and second film," Das said yesterday at the Times Litfest here.
"It is ridden with challenges because it starts with raising funds. It was not easy to raise funds for this film. It is a period film and I can't get any car to pass or any person to stand at the back, every person has to be in costume... It was also impossible to find locations."
Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the role of Manto in the film while Rasika Duggal features as his wife Safia.
The director said she has tried to simplify the author's writing without compromising on its soul.
"It was in Urdu and not everyone understands it. I have tried to simplify it and yet keep the soul of it. You can't dump it down, after all it is a writer's writing. You have to value and respect his word as well. One has to tread that path very carefully."
As part of research for the project, Das said she spent time with Manto's daughter, whose character features prominently in the film as Das was fascinated by Manto's role as a father.
"I spent a lot of time with his daughter, he had three daughters. They have wonderful memories of him because he was a wonderful father. She is very much in the film because it was an important aspect of this kind of story," she said.
Rather than dealing with Manto's entire life, her film chronicles four years of Manto's life - two years before the Partition and two years after that - the most creative yet the most turbulent period for the writer.
"When you are doing fiction, you have to see the graph of the character. There are many challenges, yet you want to be true historically, you want to be true to emotions and the spirit of it. It was a challenging project to pack all of that into less than two hours. So of course, everything is not going to be there," she said.
Manto is remembered for depicting the horrors of Partition in his stories. He loved Mumbai and spent many years in the city but migrated to Pakistan in 1948.