What is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s ‘Manto’ all about?

The movie ‘Manto’, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui (directed by Nandita Das) has released. However, most cine fans (in India) are still not clear as to what the film is all about, even though they can sense (from the trailer) that the movie is set in the times of British India.

Here are a few things about the protagonist of the film.

  • The movie Manto is based on the life of writer Saadat Hasan Manto, essayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Monto is considered to be one of the finest 20th century Urdu writers.
  • Manto, who wrote mainly in Urdu, was known to write about the hard truths of society (that obviously no one dared to talk about)
  • Manto was tried for obscenity several times (thrice in British India, and thrice after independence) but was never convicted.
  • Manto’s short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. He is best known for his stories about the partition of India.

Death: Manto was an alcoholic and spent all of his money on ‘locally distilled whiskey’, which left him with no money to buy a house for himself. On January 18, 1955, he died of liver cirrhosis (at the age of 42).

His epitaph, that he penned, said:
“Here lies buried Saadat Hasan Manto in whose bosom are enshrined all the secrets and art of short story writing. Buried under mounds of earth, even now he is contemplating whether he is a greater short story writer or God.”

Quotes By Saadat Hasan Manto (which suggest that he was way ahead of his times):

“Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both these countries — slave of prejudice … slave of religious fanaticism … slave of barbarity and inhumanity.” – Saadat Hasan Manto

“If you cannot bear these stories then 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, that’s the job of dressmakers.”
― Saadat Hasan Manto

“A man remains a man no matter how poor his conduct. A woman, even if she were to deviate for one instance, from the role given to her by men, is branded a whore. She is viewed with lust and contempt. Society closes on her doors it leaves ajar for a man stained by the same ink. If both are equal, why are our barbs reserved for the woman?”
― Saadat Hasan Manto, Why I Write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto

“To those men who say that women from “good families” must come into the world of cinema, I have this question: What is it that you mean by “good?” A woman, who honestly puts her wares on display, and sells them without an intention to cheat, is such a woman not virtuous?”
― Saadat Hasan Manto, Why I Write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto

“He catches the thieves that lie in the hearts of their pure and respectable wives. And he compares them to the purity in the heart of a whore in a brothel.”
― Saadat Hasan Manto, Manto: Selected Stories

“You would have realized that it wasn’t Mumtaz, a muslim, a friend of yours, but a human being you had killed. I mean, if he was a bastard, by killing him you wouldn’t have killed the bastard in him; similarly, assuming that he was a Muslim, you wouldn’t have killed his Muslimness, but him.”
― Saadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh: Stories

“For me, remembrance of things past has always been a waste of time, and what’s the point of tears? I don’t know. I’ve always been focussed on today. Yesterday and tomorrow hold no interest for me. What had to happen, did, and what will happen, will.”
― Saadat Hasan Manto, Why I Write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto

Manto trailer