“...and it is also possible, that Saadat Hasan dies, but Manto remains alive.”
Saadat Hasan Manto, who lived in Pakistan but unable to left India till his death in 1955 in Lahore. He left Bambai (then Bombay now Mumbai) in 1948 when he came to know the tension and consequences of partition killed the humanity even in Mumbai.
Manto, lived in a poignant environment and as a writer, he advocated throughout his life the idea of serving it to readers what a writer sees in his surroundings by holding a mirror in his mind and in his words.
In the film by Nandita Das which deals with his haunting, heart-breaking journey shows what he had felt about his surroundings his inspirations for his stories – brothels, sexual desires, melancholic environment.
The plot of movie begins in 1946, when Manto was in Mumbai established as playwright, screenwriter enjoying his prime yet sensitive towards the society in which he lives in, in return to that he continues to face trials for his story the story tells how he acquitted from his last trial in India which was on his story “Bu”, and how he celebrates this news. Soon, when India gets Independence movie tells how he started to feel insecure owing to unrest during Bombay Riots, and how he tries to wear a Muslim cap to Ashok Kumar just to escape his friend from the fire of hate.
And, when in January 1948, after seeing the hatred for Muslim from his friend actor Shyam Chaddha he impulsively, firmed his decision to move to Pakistan and migrated there. He was straight as an arrow, clear as crystal and blunt when Shyam tries to stop him by saying “You are not a Muslim enough”, he immediately responds “Itna to hoon ki mara jaa sakoon (I am Muslim enough to get killed)”.
Movie also shows, the love he had for his Mumbai, he loved Mumbai for this city accepts anyone unquestionably. He always wanted to remain in debt of this city, he calls himself chalta-firta Bambai (walking-talking Bombay). He was so depressed and homesick that he started to have hallucinations even while in middle of the police raid, which ultimately led him to self-destruction.
Overall in film, there are many points which one can discuss and draw a sketch on Manto, yet what I felt in this movie was its pace, the storyline was a bit fast but I reckon it’s obvious for its nearly impossible to cover all the aspects of Manto within a frame of 2 hours just like it is impossible to cover every nook of his life in an article.
Being Manto, it was Nawazuddin’s career-best performance, and why not should I say this? Manto lived like chameleon, from a collector of expensive and luxurious pens, but loves to write with pencil, angry and anguished with himself and society yet proud and egotistical; cynical and unable to take criticism on his work but at the same time guilt-ridden for not being a good father and husband, soft towards his kids but harsh, blunt on bigots, introvert to his problems yet bold enough to speak his mind. It was impossible to live like Manto especially under such circumstances such qualities make him unique in his own way.
He was rejected by the society in which he lives in, by family and by the friends just because he serves what he saw through his words.
Manto, was a writer from no man’s land and was criticized by his own fraternity for being himself. All I can say after watching Manto is, “hats off!” it was heart-breaking to see the life of my beloved writer I could only imagine how he lived in such hellish conditions.