Pakistan bans screening of Manto


Indian actor and film-maker Nandita Das on Saturday announced that the Pakistani government has banned her film Manto from releasing in the country.

The veteran actress took to Twitter to express her disappointment.

Furthermore, Das also penned an article in which she explaining why the film would not make it to the other side of the border.

“To divide Saadat Hasan Manto, the celebrated Urdu writer, along the lines of nationality would be the ultimate irony. He took the Partition so much to heart that it broke him. So I was very keen for the film to be released simultaneously in India and Pakistan. He equally belonged to both countries and that is why I wanted the film to be released in them simultaneously,” she wrote.

“I just got the news that Manto was not passed by their Censor Board. The reasons cited are that “the film has anti-Partition narrative theme and explicit scenes, which is against the norms of Pakistani society,” she added.

People on this side of the border also supported Das’ statement. “The ban has only vindicated all that he wrote and the madness he exposed till his last,” journalist Raza Rumi said in a tweet.

The disappointed filmmaker has also shared her views on Pakistan’s stance and reasoning of not allowing the screening of her film based on the Pakistani writer.

“To call a film “anti-Partition” is actually a startling way to criticise it. With two million dead and 14 million displaced – the largest mass migration in the world to date – Partition has made an indelible mark on our shared history. But the trauma of Partition is more complex there than in India. I was sensitised to this during my first visit to Pakistan in 1996. As an Indian, I did not understand that for them, the pain of Partition violence and the joy of the birth of a new nation are deeply intertwined. Their very existence is linked to it. Yet, the reality of the violence cannot be ignored,” she wrote further into the article.

Moreover, the general public also seems to agree that Pakistan bans everything which gives people a deep and real understanding of issues and history.

Following the film’s ban, an open letter has been penned by Manto’s daughters, notable Pakistani journalists, activists and others. The letter reads as follows:

Manto, a critically acclaimed film directed by Nandita Das, celebrates the life of an Urdu writer who chose Pakistan as his home during the Indian partition but is collectively owned and revered by the people of the subcontinent. The audiences and critics worldwide have appreciated the film. However, it is a matter of huge concern that the Pakistan Censor Board has recently decided to debar the film. The disappointing decision to ban the film has created a hue and cry among writers, poets, and intellectuals in the literary circles of Pakistan. The film ban is being hugely protested as it’s considered a threatening attack on creative and artistic freedom of expression. It is, therefore, appealed that the ban is dismissed with immediate effect.

Saadat Hassan Manto had faced persecution, torture and years of court trials during “Purana Pakistan”. Would the same dreadful fate befall the writers, particularly, ‘Manto’ in “Naya Pakistan”?

Signed by

  1. I.A. Rehman, veteran Journalist and Rights Activist
    2. Hussain Naqi, senior Journalist
    3. Dr Sadat Saeed, PWA President
    4. Mirza Hamid Baig, Author
    5. Salima Hashmi, Painter and Rights Activist
    6. Nighat Manto, Manto’s daughter
    7. Nusrat Manto, Manto’s daughter
    8. Nuzhat Manto, Manto’s daughter
    9. Mohammad Tehseen, Director SAP-PK
    10. Beena Sarwar, Journalist
    11. Almas Jovindah, Adv High Court
    12. Ali Jaffer Zaidi, Anti-war Activist, London
    13. Saleem Asmi, Former Editor Dawn
    14. Ammar Aziz, Documentary Filmmaker
    15. Sehyr Mirza, Journalist and Peace Activist
    16. Ammara Ahmed, Journalist
    17. Maryam Saeed, Rights Activist
    18. Nusrat Mirza, Social Activist
    19. Saeed Ahmed, Journalist, Writer & Secretary General of Manto Memorial Society


Manto, Das’ second feature film, premiered in UnCertain Regard in Cannes this year and has been picked up by festivals including Sydney, Toronto and Busan.

The film traces the life of controversial subcontinent writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Siddiqui has brought the character to life. It also stars actress Rasika Dugal.