Actress Sonal Sehgal, who is playing the female lead in Rahat Kazmis forthcoming film Mantostaan — based on the stories of celebrated writer Saadat Hasan Manto — says that most of the women characters in his oeuvre were very humane.

The actress who is playing Kalwant Kaur, from one of Manto's Thanda Gosht, is excited to be a part of Mantostaan, an amalgamation of four short stories- Khol Do, Thanda Ghosht, Aakhri Salute and Assignment.

Asked why such fascination, Sonal told : "I think all the women characters in his stories are emancipated. And that is interesting. Even in his short stories, in a small length… he managed to encapsulate various shades of emotions in every character. They are not black and white, they are humane with flaws and positivity."

Taking the example of the character of Kalwant Kaur, Sonal elaborated: "Though she was a mistress, she was a lady with integrity who did not tolerate infidelity. I think that is the beauty of the character where Manto did not judge her. In modern days, we are also celebrating flaws of an individual that Manto started doing back then. Perhaps that is why he is still relevant."

It is interesting to know how an author of the 1940s is popular not only in India and Pakistan, but also in the West.

She said: "Yes, it is true and in the beginning I was surprised. We have travelled a lot with this film at various festivals in London, San Francisco and other places where people showed their interest to know about the philosophy and ideology of Manto."

"Later we found out that there is a course in literature syllabus on Manto. No wonder, we have got so much positive response and Manto is so popular out there." 

As she is playing a strong character in Mantostaan, what are her thoughts on the modern women-centric Hindi films?

She said: "The subtle feminism is missing, which needs to be maintained. And for that, it does not have to be a so-called ‘women-oriented' film. Even in a regular story, a woman character can have her own mind. All we need is good writing that captures human emotions in a balanced manner."

She added: "We do not have to show over-the-top and loud characters to project feminism. That will be preachy and we don't have to show a woman like a doormat. Managing that subtlety is an art."

She started her career in television and gained popularity with shows like Saara Akaash and Hotel Kingston. 

Sonal then made her debut on the big screen with the National Film Award-winning director Nagesh Kukunoor's movie Aashayein opposite John Abraham in 2010. 

After a while, she stopped working in films frequently.

"I am a bit choosy about scripts and it becomes hard for me to act just for a good pay check. I know it is a business of entertainment, but at the end of the day… it is an art. Since acting is a very demanding art that takes a lot from you – emotional and physical strength, if I am not convinced, it will reflect on my performance," said Sonal.

Mantostaan is slated to release on May 5.