Kicking off in pre-Partition India, Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer Manto traces the most important years in the celebrated author's career as he fought obscenity charges issued against his works while grappling with the sense of isolation that was brought on by the Partition.
Art director Rita Ghosh tells us that recreating post-Independence Lahore for the Nandita Das-directed venture in Gujarat was a mammoth task, after their plan for shooting in Pakistan hit a roadblock.
“We were to shoot most of these sequences in Lahore. However, after the Uri attacks, we had to cancel our reccee," says Ghosh, who then conducted extensive reccees across Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Gujarat for the period drama.
"We wanted to get the bylanes of Lahore right, so we started looking for areas that are architecturally similar to Pakistan of the 1940s.
There were a few streets in Ahmedabad that didn't have modern elements and hence, could pass off as Lahore." Besides Manto's daughters Nighat, Nuzhat and Nusrat, Ghosh also relied on art directors based in the neighbouring country to reimagine the era. "We had a steady supply of pictures from Lahore, so even the curios in his home, and the utensils used in the film have been replicated."
Her biggest challenge was to create a ship for the sequence where Manto is seen bidding adieu to Mumbai and heading to Pakistan.
"Building a ship would have been an expensive affair. We eventually found a container yard near Ahmedabad and built a ship on top of a container," says Ghosh, adding that Das's "clarity and discipline" made the task much easier.