LAHORE: Manto is a name unknown to little considering how much media and coverage coverage the late writer has gotten in recent years; most recent being Nandita Das’s biopic on the writer. Das’s biopic starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manto has made its way to this year’s Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section and will be screened there.
Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) is a prominent name in the archives of Urdu literature. Considered among the greatest contemporary Urdu short story writers of the 20th century, Manto has left a legacy that stretches far and wide.
Manto’s greatest gift was his ability to depict the reality of society with such ease that he would leave the reader mesmerised and in utter awe. His attention to minor details and his signature style of description was second to none. Manto was a realist and a puritan who hated hypocrisy in every given way. And it was his realistic approach towards the world that made him an outcast and the reason why people shunned him.
Manto was tried for obscenity six times; thrice before 1947 in British India, and thrice after independence in 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted.
He produced 22 collections of short stories, a novel, 5 series of radio plays, 3 collections of essays, 2 collections of personal sketches. His short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics alike.
However, with time and awareness, people began to connect with Manto’s writing, plummeting him into the spotlight. Over the years, Manto has been the subject of several films, tv plays and stage dramas. In 2015, acclaimed filmmaker and actor, Sarmad Khoosat, released a movie, Manto, on his life.
A memorial library has also been set up in his honour in Paproudi, Ludhiana district of Indian Punjab, his birthplace.
Manto’s stories have been translated into Japanese, French and recently in Croatian and he has been subject of several research theses by various students in the US and UK.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Manto’s daughter, Nuzhat on Nandita Das’s biopic said, “Manto’s screening at Cannes is a big honour for a writer whose works were demonised by the intelligentsia, his peers and society but now are seeing widespread acceptance due to its reality. Cannes will get a glimpse into the controversial writer’s life and the struggles he went through to develop his identity as a scriptwriter in the Indian film industry.”
The Government of Pakistan also remembered Manto on this occasion.
Saadat Hasan #Manto was a #Pakistani writer, playwright and author. ✍
He produced 22 collections of short stories, a novel, 5 series of radio plays, 3 collections of essays, 2 collections of personal sketches. His short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. pic.twitter.com/e73ERnCdut
— Govt of Pakistan (@pid_gov) May 11, 2018
Nandita Das also shared a letter she wrote to Manto on his birthday last year while she was filming for the biopic.
Fans from both sides of the border also took to social media to remember the late writer.
More than sixty-two years after his death, Manto still keeps that aura of awe amongst the readers and garners media interest unlike any other of his contemporaries.