Set in the post-partition period, the upcoming Nandita Das directorial venture, Manto, is the story of the legendary writer Saadat Hasan Manto. In Mumbai, he worked in the film industry as a writer with Bombay Talkies. The movie goes on to trace his life after his migration to Lahore, his days of unemployment there and his turn as an alcoholic withering away physically and mentally. While you can certainly rely on Nawazuddin Siddiqui and his phenomenal acting chops to portray the complex character, Siddiqui himself relied on a few things to get under the skin of Manto.
“Nandita had a three-day narration for the film and he insisted that I be a part of that as well,” says Sheetal Sharma, the costume designer for the film. The first time Sharma met Nawazuddin Siddiqui was on the sets of Miss Lovely in 2012. Since then he has styled the actor in Raees (2017) and now Manto. “We started out with high waist pants and tucked in shirts, and moved on to kurta pajamas. From the creases on his kurta, to how mussed up his hair should be and on which side, he made sure to keep every detail of his look in mind while shooting,” adds Sharma.
Siddiqui is a champion on screen, but as his varied looks in his recent films have proved, he is also a chameleon getting under and shedding skins of the various characters he portrays, with expert styling helping him in the process. Playing a gangster with a passion for dance in last week’s release, Munna Michael, Siddiqui may have sported guns in a few of his films already, but never before have you seen him attempt a moonwalk. And never before have you seen him in acid-washed distressed jeans, bomber jackets, belts with chunky metal buckles and small silver hoops dangling from both his earlobes.
Siddiqui is a champion on screen, but as his varied looks in his recent films have proved, he is also a chameleon getting under and shedding skins of the various characters he portrays, with expert styling helping him in the process
Quite literally adding second skin (and hair) to Siddiqui was make-up artist Preetisheel Singh of Da Makeup Lab. “We didn’t want Nawaz to look like Nawaz. The director told us what he had in mind, we took his references and worked on a few options. The comb-over and the fake teeth were added to give more layers to the character. The teeth changed the way he spoke,” says Singh. The vest jackets and large eyeglasses added to the whole look of this extraordinary but simple character from old Delhi.
“Even while making love to a woman the beedi is attached to his lips,” says Shroff. She wanted to maintain earthy tones for the character based in Lucknow, so the colour palate for him included warm tones of brown, orange, red and ochre. The clothes were locally stitched in Lucknow, by tailors whose references were old copies of magazines such as Mayapuri. “Nawaz also came with us to shop for clothes, and we would sneak him into local stores to try on. All of this together just brought out the Babu in him,” says Shroff.
A “desi James Bond” as Siddiqui identified him as, the gun in the lungi and the radio is his hand are the other flourishes, making this one of the most exciting characters to look forward to.