I first read Saadat Hasan Manto when I was in college and was struck by his simple yet profound narratives. For years, I thought of making a film based on his stories, even before I made my directorial debut, Firaaq. But it is only when I read his essays that I realized that his own life was as interesting as his stories. He also seemed very familiar to me because, like Manto, my father is an unconventional artist, a misunderstood misfit who is fearlessly blunt.
What drew me to Manto was his free spirit and courage to stand up against orthodoxies of all kinds. Manto’s unflinching faith in the redemptive power of the written word resonates with my own compulsion to tell stories. In some mystical way, I feel I am part of that hopeful legacy! I believe there is a Mantoiyat (Manto-ness) in all of us – the part that wants to be more truthful and courageous. The spirit of Manto is the spirit of the film.
The film is culturally and socially rooted in its context but its emotions are universal. They transcend boundaries. I could not have wished for a better start than the Cannes Film Festival for it to reach the widest possible audiences.