Mixed Medium

What Pakistan and India could learn from new Manto film

Sarmat Khoosat's biopic on Saadat Hasan Manto promises to be the story of a writer who didn't live to see the literary legend he would become.

 |  Mixed Medium  |  2-minute read |   31-08-2015
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"Kirdar likh chuka hun, mere kalam se nikal chuken hain, jaate kyun nai? Mera peecha kyun nai chodte?" moans Manto, talking to his reflection in the mirror. The characters born out of him refuse to leave him. They won't stop telling their stories. In 120 seconds, the trailer of Sarmad Khoosat's Manto, based on the life of the iconic Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, brings to reel the turmoil of a man whose stories broke tradition and stripped naked our worst exploits.

Set in the years after Partition, the film draws from few of Manto's most poignant works, like Thanda Gosht, Madari and Peshawar se Lahore Tak, as well as his personal battles with alcoholism and the Pakistani state, which attacked him for the blasphemous nature of his stories. The trailer offers glimpses of the events that pushed the writer into depression and landed him in a mental asylum, where Toba Tek Singh - an enduring short story on Partition - was born.

In its riveting frames, Manto tries to capture the madness of a writer who found his muse in whores, ridiculed piety and rebelled against compromise. The women of Manto's stories became his alter ego - they challenged society and left it tormented.

"Mai aag bechta hun safiyah, aag. Uski chingaariyan doosron ki raakh me nai jhok sakta (I sell fire, Safiyah. It's not for others to douse)," Manto is seen telling his wife. Manto promises to be the story of a writer who didn't live to see the literary legend he would become, nor did he live up to the expectations of his family.

65mahira-khan_083115123012.jpg A scene based on the short story Peshawar se Lahore Tak in Manto.

At a time when freedom of expression is losing to intolerance in the subcontinent, a biopic on Manto could help clear away the cobwebs. For the writer's many admirers in Pakistan and India, one hopes that the film does justice to the life and literature of Manto.

Like he once said, "And it is also possible, that Saadat Hasan dies, but Manto remains alive."


Charumathi Sankaran Charumathi Sankaran @edit_err

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