Manto Ke Afsaane
Shomik Ray, Ivy Sengupta, Arup Ganguly, Arindam Ghatak
About the Play
Sadaat Hasan Manto is acknowledged as the finest Urdu short story writer of all times. Unfortunately, this acclaim did not come to him in his lifetime. Controversies, criticisms, humiliation plagued his life pushing him to penury. Manto was much ahead of his times making it difficult for the contemporary society to comprehend his art. The so-called societal leaders took him to court six times for obscenity thrice in India before independence and thrice in independent Pakistan. However, he was not convicted on any of the occasions.
Manto wrote about the people and the society that he saw. Their dark sides used to torment Manto and this darkness was personified in his writings. The tuned and trained intelligentsia found them obscene. Manto said, If you cannot bear these stories, then society is unbearable. Manto was not used to window-dressing half-truths or lies into believable or palatable morsels. His style was to speak his mind and articulate the truth in unambiguous words. Whatever he saw and perceived would find its way on paper through his pen. This made him a soft and repeated target of criticisms and controversies, which were often self-contradictory and based on personal prejudices rather than real issues.
Whatever the reason, Manto was left lonely. The Government branded him progressive and kept him out of state support and the literary circuit considered him reactionary and maintained distance. Manto had little means to feed himself and his family. The partition disturbed Manto a lot. He stayed on and worked in his city of love, Bombay even after his wife and daughters had moved to Pakistan. Eventually, situations forced a reluctant Manto to board a ship headed to Karachi. Till the last day of his life, he could not come to terms with how a careless casual line could divide a race and cause a mockery of humanity.
Mantos stories on partition exemplify his art. The pictorial detailing and the unambiguous, truthful language with which Manto captures the tumultuous times is bound to move the most stoic individual even today, 62 years after his death.
Three such stories have been stitched together for Manto Ke Afsane. Shaheed-e-saaz, Kali Salwar and Khol Do are timeless creations of Manto. All three have the tumultuous partition-times as their background. Manto paints vivid pictures of the darkest corners of the human mind and the society at that time in all the three stories. Typical to his style, there is no effort to window dress or clothe blatant truth presented in all its reality. The stories have been stitched by essays that Manto had written about himself at various points in time.
Mantos stories have been enacted before. But connecting multiple stories and presenting them in a format similar to an active storytelling has probably not been attempted before.