Saadat Hasan Manto, who has been classified as one of the most powerful writers of the partition, has been graced with another movie played by Nawassuddin Sidiquii. For those of you who do not know Manto, the movie is a crash course of his work and life. So you would be happy as the song, “Bol ki lab Azaad rain here…” starts playing on the screen. An ending (Cant say it was an happy one).
But for those who really know Manto, those who have studied him closely as a 20th century writer, a writer without nonsense, and no sense to write for please, this is the article for you.
There is a reason why Manto’s name is kept aside from other Partition writers like Mir, or Faiz. Like other writers, he did not glorify the partition. He did not write encouraging poems for the freedom fighters of the time, neither did he speak out in their support. However, what he really did was paint a picture of an India that no one wanted to see: the dark, murky, side which was full of inhumanity, injustice and bloodshed.
Watching the movie was good, Sidiquii did justice to Manto. But the story spun was all wrong. It didn’t sit well with me that Manto wasn’t shown as much a writer as he deserves to be. Personally, I believe that the legacy that Manto left behind cannot be downplayed like that. Even though he was notorious but his bold pen left us with insights about partition that no other article, book or memoir is ever going to write about.
Given his works, and the career both in India and Pakistan, his life has been full of scandals not in his personal life, but in his literature. Known for writing the naked truth of the society and its mentality at the time which I believe hasn’t changed much, one can say that Manto was a writer ahead of his time.
Manto had a way with words which went beyond the meanings they reflect in the first reading. Even though stories like Thanda Ghosht, Khol Do, and Toba Tek Singh which were powerful pieces of literature got featured in the movie, there are other stories which put the society to shame and were equally deserving of being heard.
Once, Manto was asked why he wanted to pollute the society with his obscene stories using foul language about prostitutes. His reply was, “If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable. Who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked.”
Manto used to say that he only ever wrote what he knows and what he saw. And based on that, one can deduce the chill-inducing fact that there was indeed a ‘Sakina’ who was lost from his father and raped to the point of being unable to comprehend her surroundings.
Manto, the voice behind the bitter words
Manto, the invisible veil between the truth and the lies
Manto, the wondrous man with an artistic vision
Manto, one who understood the country and its partition
Manto, one who saw the naked reality of man-made religion
Manto, who knew he had to get his hands dirty to wipe the slate clean
Manto, who made sure the people knew themselves for what they were
Manto, the wise man who lost his voice at the end
Manto, who says he will die but Manto will remain
Manto, the friend and the enemy of words
Manto, the unadulterated perspective to how it really was.