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A year ago, seasoned actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui played one of his most nuanced roles till date. He brought alive the intricacies and mental struggles of a writer, who was unapologetically idealistic, raw and witty, perceptive and sensitive, and most of all, misunderstood. The writer was none other than Saadat Hasan Manto and Nawazuddin's portrayal of Manto was convincing. Between fountain pens, alcohol, and observations, Nawazuddin Siddiqui chronicled the part of the journey of the writer, who was ahead of his times. Directed by Nandita Das, a lot of preparation must have taken getting into the skin of the character. However, as a fashion connoisseur, the one deeply moving element about Nawazuddin's character was his costume.
If you look at it, his costume as a 1947 partition-era writer was something as humble as a pristine white kurta and pyjama. There wasn't a whiff of flamboyance or meticulous embroidery to his white kurta pyjamas, considering Manto was one of the most sought-after writers. As a human-interest writer in Lahore (post partition), Manto's kurta pyjama was a reflection of the fact that he was uninfluenced. Manto was so attached to the cause of bringing out the stories of common people, right from prostitutes to people with missing sense of belonging, that he was oblivious to the glamour that surrounded him. So, perhaps Nawazuddin Siddiqui donning a white kurta pyjama made sense as the plain garment showed the unrestrained and de-glam character of Manto.
There are a lot of poets and writers today, who wear white kurta pyjamas. It could be that white-coloured kurta sets comes naturally to them or that they just simply love the colour white. However, while white symbolises peace, it also stands apart as an unbiased hue. The clothes more than often are a mirror of our inner self and Nawazuddin by wearing white kurta pyjama in the movie highlighted the side of Manto, which can be explained as someone who flawlessly wrote what he saw, sans any blemishes.
There's something more than depth that comes with white kurta pyjama. White kurta pyjama can make you look a class apart, as some sort of an enigma but it serves a larger purpose. The fact that white kurta pyjama is one of the simplest outfits, it establishes a connect with the grassroots. It also conveys a message, 'Whilst I am observing and understand you people, I am not necessarily a part of you or anyone.'
A writer practices a certain level of detachment with his or her subject and so, what better outfit than a white kurta pyjama to elucidate a position between blending and not-blending. Apart from his acting prowess, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's white kurta pyjama made an impact and helped him look more like Manto. Costume designer of the movie Manto, Sheetal Sharma poetically contributed to the critical success of the movie. He used elements such as black spectacles and elegant watches, which further gave shape to Nawazuddin's character as Manto.