A beautifully crafted and poignant biographical drama about prominent Urdu poet Saadat Hasan Manto and revolves around the turmoil in his life brought upon by the partition post Independence.
Saadat Hasan Manto is known to be one of the finest 20th century Urdu poets whose life became a subject of intense discussion and introspection.
Cast- Nawazuddin, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Shashank Arora, Rajshri Deshpande, Inaamulhaq,Paresh Rawal, Tilottama Shome, Ranvir Shorey, Divya Dutta, Rishi Kapoor,Chandan Roy Sanyal
Writer/ Director- Nandita Das
The story opens to pre independence India and a peek into Saadat’s(Nawaz) happy life.He was a revered writer and poet,a successful screen writer in Bombay Film industry, had an adorable relationship with his wife Safia(Rasika), a great friendship with Ismat Chugtai( Rajshri) and actors like star Ashok Kumar and Shyam Chaddha. Despite legal tiffs with authorities about his writing style, it was a happy life.
Independence brought freedom, partition and turmoil.The sectarian violence that unleashed led to divisive misunderstanding and Manto shifted to Lahore even though his soul remained in India.The shock of being in a refugee city that was in shambles after the riots and the devastation brought around by the partition broke Sadat.Lack of monetary value for his work, limited work opportunities and his refusal to compromise with his writing style, led to grave financial problems.The pathetic state of people around, the sectarian feelings besieging the society and the old life and friends he deeply missed , drove him to despair and drinking.
His basic tenet of unflinchingly writing about harsh truths of society and the language used was unfortunately beyond understanding and acceptance for the authorities and the social and religious guardians.
He died a broken man, missing his homeland, fighting legally for his right to freedom of expression, and socially for respectful place for his work as literature.
Kudos to Nandita Das for being able to recreate a bygone era and story so passionately that it infuses you with emotions.
Kudos to Nawazuddin for being able to bring alive the soul and ethos of the legendary writer and the pain of a broken man. Manto’s angst was seeping through and heart wrenching.
The third aspect that I fell in love with were the dialogues and diction.The beauty of Urdu was in full glory as used during that era.
The wonderful ensemble support cast is an additional pleasure.
The screenplay is brilliant, creating the period era beautifully with the help of great cinematography and art direction.
Apart from giving us Manto’ story, Das has discreetly brought to fore the issue of artistic freedom and sectarian mindsets that might have changed form but is definitely lurking around even now.
This gem of a film is highly recommended for those who like historical dramas, biographical dramas or have interest in the literary works and rich heritage of writing from that era.