Review: Manto the film, A food for thought

Produced by Baber Javed, Manto is basically a biographical dramatic movie based on the great legendary and controversial story writer Sadat Hasan Manto. Manto is not just a movie; it is a piece of art. The dialogues, plots, acting, sets, and music everything is simply flawless. The lyrics of the songs in the movie are composed according to the act. They are so intense that it touches the soul and gives you goose bumps. Most of the dialogues of movie are taken from the short stories of Manto.

Maula Jat was famous for its dialogues, likewise the dialogues of Manto are the hallmark for the movie and it would also be famous for its powerful dialogues in times to come. Thanda Gosht, License, Madari, Hatak, Peshawar se Lahore are some of those stories selected for film.

The movie covers the life of Manto right after the partition and leads to the events which culminate to his death. It is one of the most extraordinary biopic of our industry and is based on the final phase of Manto’s life. The avatar of Manto is played by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat who is also the director of the movie. It would be fair to say that he has performed brilliantly. He did justice to the complicated character of Manto in a way that no one else could. The audience was mesmerized by his acting and they did not find their attention wavering from the movie at any point in time.

The movie starts with the scene that Manto is in a mental hospital, where he is being treated with electric shocks. This whole scene is very intense and realistic. It immediately attracts the audience attention. The doctors are forced to discharge Manto from the hospital, when he starts protesting against them and their treatment. He also tries to convince the patients that they should raise their voice for their rights and fight against the doctors and their cruel behavior. After he is discharged from the hospital, he is given a license of Ice factory by a friend among the British rulers. However, he feels that it is below his dignity, therefore, he quits. When his wife inquires he says that, “have I previously been selling ice to make a living? I don’t need a license to run an ice factory. I already have a license to pen short stories. Today I have sold three flames! I sold one short story, one plot and one article. I should have set that ice factory on fire,” but this is only the beginning of more struggles as he fails to make both ends meet and provide for his ailing daughter and family. His scripts and masterpieces were criticized and burned by the haters.

This biopic is a reminder of the struggles that an artist faces in order to bring a change in the society through his writing. The movie shows that Manto’s stories were truth based and factual. Most of his stories were about call girls, procurers and the horrors of partition. He was considered to be the master of Urdu literature and he had an intimate passion to write. He felt empathy for the miseries and hardships befallen upon the people at the time of partition. These miseries haunted him throughout his life and he wrote to express the trauma and sufferings that he experienced. The movie covers this phenomenon beautifully.

His own life has been full of continuous ups and downs. His work was hindered by financial woes and emotional hardships. He had to face persecution by conservative people, court cases and he also was affected by his inability to support his family. But he was a man of utmost candor despite of all his troubles, his drinking problem and the hallucinations. He kept enlightening people with his remarkable works of literature, even the shock treatment and his failing health couldn’t stop him from producing some great literary master pieces. Manto has always been criticized for writing inappropriate and vulgar content. His stories made people uncomfortable and he has also faced some serious charges of obscenity but his passion and drive to write was really strong, he refused to bow before the taboos and morality of our society. He says in the movie that

“If you cannot bear my stories than the society is unbearable, who am I to remove the clothes of this society, which itself is naked. I don’t even try to cover it because it is not my job, it’s the job of the dressmakers”.

The main characters of Manto movie were played by great actors of our drama industry. The avatar of Saffia (manto’s wife) is incredibly played by Sania Saeed who is portrayed as a very understanding and supportive house wife. She understands her husband in a way that no one else can and forgives him for all his wrongdoings. Her acting was simply outstanding. Noor Jehan was played by Saba Qamar. The movie also describes the relations between Noor Jehan and Manto. Mahira Khan amused the audience by joyously playing the role of Madaran. Other than these main characters there were some guest’s appearances of Faisal Qureshi and some other prominent actors. Some of the many greatest works of Sadat Hassan Manto, shown in flashbacks in the movie were Akhiri Salute, Toba Tek Singh, Peshawar se Karachi, Khol Do and Thanda Ghosht.

Manto was in himself a great man but his work was not meant for our society. We are not mature enough to appreciate his efforts. His stories were and are still controversial. Such extraordinary artists like Manto spend their whole life in an attempt to bring a change but they are rejected and abused by the society until another artist like Sarmad Sultan Khoosat steps forward and makes a movie like this to pay tribute to these unaccepted legends of our society. Hopefully this movie will change the mindset of people regarding Manto. The last dialogues of Manto in the movies and the words that Manto wanted to mark his grave with were

“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful Here lays Saadat Hasan Manto and with him lie buried all the secrets and mysteries of the art of short-story writing. Under tons of earth he lays, still wondering who among the two is greater short-story writer: God or He.