Nandita Das is the renaissance woman of Indian arts. She is an award-winning film actress (“Fire”, “1947: Earth”) and writer-director (“Firaaq”), a theater playwright-director (“Between the Lines”), has served on the Cannes jury twice, is an honoree of the French government with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, a Yale World Fellow, and is the first Indian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Intl. Women’s Forum.
It is only appropriate then, that the subject of her next feature “Manto,” co-written by Das and Mir Ali Husain (“Dor”), wears as many hats. The film is based on renowned novelist, playwright, essayist, screenplay writer and short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Also an iconoclast, Manto faced trial six times on obscenity charges for his short stories — thrice in pre-1947 British India and thrice post-partition in the newly created Pakistan.
Das is co-producing via her Chhoti Prods. She met her French co-producing partners En Compagnie Des Lamas in Cannes earlier this year. Co-producer Sandrine Brauer’s “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” was nominated for a 2015 Golden Globe in the foreign-language category, and fellow producer Marie Masmonteil’s “Party Girl” won the Golden Camera and the Un Certain Regard Ensemble Prize at Cannes 2014.
The film is budgeted at $3.3 million out of which $1.1 million is already in place from private equity. Das says that there are quite a few Indian producers interested, but she is leaving the Indian part until the end. “I want to first figure out what we are looking at around the world,” says Das. “When I go to the Indian producers, I want to know exactly what the structure of the production is, to keep creative freedom, because I didn’t have a very good experience with ‘Firaaq.’ ”
The “Manto” team is meeting sales agents and distributors at the Busan Asian Project Market and will apply for CNC funding in France and look for an ARTE French/German broadcasting deal. Principal photography is expected to commence in July.