With discussions around pay parity, women empowerment and movements against sexual abuse making way for change in Hollywood, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is hoping for a similar effect in India. The critically-acclaimed actor says it is time to give women the respect they deserve.
"We need to change. The West is also undergoing a change with respect to women. Women in India are also speaking up about their own experiences," Nawazuddin told IANS in a recorded response.
"We need to introspect about the way we have treated women for centuries. It is time to change. It is time to look at them from a different perspective. We need to understand their thoughts, desires and feelings, and respect them," said the actor.
The actor, who has cinematic gems like Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, Liar's Dice, Badlapur and Manjhi: The Mountain Man, will soon be seen bringing the life of writer Saadat Hasan Manto alive on the big screen with Manto, helmed by Nandita Das.
Manto, who died in 1955 at the age of 43, penned an impressive body of work touching various genres. He churned out about 22 collections of stories comprising a novel, essays, personal sketches and movie scripts.
His work also gained attention for weaving stories around the ordeal of partition, freedom of expression as well as sexuality. His work also got him in trouble as he was charged with obscenity six times for his short stories, three times in India before 1947 and three times in Pakistan after 1947.
Nawazuddin says the story of Manto is very much relevant today.
"The stories he wrote in 1940, and the way he looked at the world... Nothing much has changed since then as far as society is concerned. His stories are very much relevant today. In fact, we were shocked to see that we haven't changed much, and to see that there hasn't been much growth as an individual and a society."
Manto, co-produced by HP Studios, Filmstoc and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, also provides a window into the writer's life during the tumultuous partitioning of British colonial India into two nations -- India and Pakistan.
Talking about the partition chapter, he said: "We can't imagine the agony that millions of people endured during partition. Imagine a person having to leave behind his home of the past 40-50 years and settling down in a new country. We can't even think the magnitude of the tragedy."
Nawazuddin doesn't agree with the calls to put a temporary ban on Pakistani talent working in the Hindi film industry.
"Artistes and art has no boundaries," he asserted, while pointing out that the film will not only churn emotions, but will haunt people.
"The film is very personal. It will haunt people. You will feel a connect with the story. And the reason behind that is -- every one wants to say the truth, but there are many factors and pressures of the society stopping them from saying the truth."
Manto is slated to release on Friday, and the actor is looking forward to it.
"I am proud of this project. I don't know how will the audience react to it. But whatever it is, I am proud that I did a film like this."