Stories about Saadat Hasan Manto

Dear PEMRA, it is our society that is ‘indecent’; our dramas are merely a portrayal of it

The performing arts are considered a tool for providing entertainment, relaxation and catharsis to society. Before the invention of the television, stage dramas, dancing and poetry were all important mediums in people’s lives, showing just how necessary entertainment is for us. Pakistan’s first official TV channel was launched in 1964, and we soon saw the rise of our drama industry with classic plays like Ankahi, Waris and Tanhaiyaan. However, after General Ziaul Haq’s martial law and the subsequent Islamisation of society, the entertainment industry was not spared either. As a result, the film industry gradually vanished and dramas became more ...

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From a great writer to a great a leader: How Manto came to terms with Jinnah’s passing

On the 142nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah today, a little-known piece by the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto is being presented for the time in its original English translation. This piece is part of Manto’s published but uncollected writings that are only recently seeing the light of day. Though there is little or no evidence that the great writer ever met the great leader, this piece – originally published in the Daily ‘Imroz’ just three days after Jinnah’s death in September 1948 – crystallises the raw emotions of a writer in the aftermath of a national tragedy ...

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Nandita Das does justice to the iconoclastic Manto in a way Sarmad Khoosat could not

Viewing the trailer of Nandita Das’s Manto was a great pleasure, especially since prior to seeing Sarmad Khoosat’s biopic of Saadat Hasan Manto released in 2015, I had not seen its trailer. Comparisons of Das’s version with Khoosat’s trailer will seem inevitable, even much-needed, given what the respective directors and main actors are trying to prove in a short span of less than three minutes, if the trailers are to be believed. Das’s Manto, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, comes across as an iconoclast and a rebel right from the opening scene of the trailer, where Manto is shown to be in ...

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Remembering Saghar Siddiqui: The maverick who poetically bared corruption and opportunism

Today marks the 44th death anniversary of maverick Pakistani poet Saghar Siddiqui, who died from an overdose of morphine on the streets of Lahore, the city where he found a home after migrating from India to Pakistan in 1947. He was only six years short of turning 50, joining the ranks of legends such as Asrarul Haq Majaz, Saadat Hasan Manto, Miraji and Mustafa Zaidi, who were equally consumed by the callousness and opportunism of a predatory system. Had Saghar lived longer, I have no doubt he would have been as popular among the youth of Pakistan as Jaun Elia ...

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Why I am returning my award

Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government. First of all, “intolerance” is the wrong word to use for the lynching, shooting, burning and mass murder of fellow human beings. Second, we had plenty of advance notice of what lay in store ...

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Ismat Chughtai’s women: Women, yes – dreams, no

Ismat Chughtai is universally regarded as one of the four pillars of Urdu fiction in our time, apart from her contemporaries Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Rajinder Singh Bedi. This year is being celebrated as her birth centenary year. While in India, she and her legacy is being feted and commemorated.   In Pakistan, this unrelenting and daring champion of women’s rights and feminism, who anticipated by a few decades the heaven-stormers of the 60s powered and pioneered in the West by Simone de Beauvoir, has been consciously ignored. Perhaps firstly, owing to the controversy she created with one ...

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Kabira is still crying in Pakistan

While many progressives are fond of extolling Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s lament on the unfulfilled promise of postcoloniality, his evocative poem Subh-i-Azadi (The Dawn of Freedom), in prose, it is actually Saadat Hasan Manto who captures the opportunism and political chicanery which characterised the newly-formed state of Pakistan. In his little-known short story, Dekh Kabira Roya (See, Kabira Cried) published soon after Manto’s reluctant migration to his new country, Manto uses the famous 15th century Sufi poet Bhagat Kabir as a protagonist to presciently satirise the emerging trends of intolerance, orthodoxy and cultural chauvinism in the newly-independent state, which are all too familiar in Pakistan in the 21st century. As such, this fable may also be read today ...

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Rajinder Singh Bedi: Film-making is not child’s play

September 1st marks the birth centenary of Rajinder Singh Bedi, one of the most gifted and greatest fiction writers of the 20th century, completing the quartet whose membership also extends to Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander, and Ismat Chughtai. Bedi was a son of Punjab, born in Lahore. While his output was not as prodigious as his three aforementioned contemporaries, his stories are memorable, chastising ancient beliefs and superstitions which keep the ordinary person ignorant and the women oppressed. He was not a doctrinaire blinded by ideology as many of his contemporaries were, but rather than giving us the heady slogans of revolution, he preferred ...

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In Manto’s words, this is what Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi looks like

We live in strange times. Saudi Arabia’s ageing despot has finally died. The difference between then and now of course is that Saudi visits are hardly as honest and just as scarcely the bearer of good news for Pakistan’s perpetually-indebted elite. If in the 1950s they brought some hope for the poor along with gold, now these visits carry a heavy price tag, despite assurances to the contrary from the country’s financial mandarins after the latest Saudi bequest of $1.5 billion in a scarcely-entertaining drama at the national level. And the heavy price-tag might end up consuming Pakistan itself. Our dependence on Saudi oil, remittances ...

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60 years ago Saadat Hasan Manto knew what Pakistan was in for today

“I have seen him;  On the cleanest roads, in a dust-covered amazement;  In the gathering storm of blind, overturned cups; Tossing the empty bottle he shouts, ‘Oh world! Your beauty is your ugliness.’  Booms becoming the noise of chains, The world stares back at him, Their bloodshot eyes rattle with the question, ‘Who nabs the pillar of time, By the noose of his drunken breath? Who dares to break into dim corridors, Of twisted conscience? Who intrudes upon poisonous dens, Of demonised souls? Through icy glasses his rude glance, Chases us like a footfall, Foul monster! Bang! Bang!” (A poem for Manto – Majeed Amjad) The man who saw beauty in the world’s ugliness and for whom this poem ...

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