Upendra Nath Ashk was the first Hindi dramatist to receive Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He was hired by All India Radio (AIR) as a playwright and Hindi adviser in 1941 where Saadat Hasan Manto was already working in its Urdu service. There was no love lost between these two great authors. Ashk was critical of Manto’s writing, and Manto was dismissive of Ashq’s storytelling skills. Manto sought every conceivable opportunity to confront him. The play Mera Dushman Manto is a dramatization of representative short stories of Ashk and Manto, and a glimpse of Manto’s life through the eyes of Upendranath Ashk.
Dachi (Ashk) was a new genre Hindi short story of that time. The story is very evocative and lucidly brings out the softer feelings of human nature hitherto found only in Sanskrit literature. Khushiya (Manto) is the story of a lowly pimp who suddenly discovers self-respect. Ubal (Ashk) and Blouse (Manto) are stories about teenage domestic help struggling to cope with hormonal changes in their bodies. Then there is License (Manto) a typical Manto short story which has a hard-hitting ending that leaves the audience shell shocked. And of course, the skirmish between the authors adds to the drama of Mera Dushman Manto and makes for a scintillating evening of play watching.