Manto: In Memoriam

Manto: In Memoriam

The Manto Foundation will pay a birth centenary tribute to the maverick writer for an entire year,starting today.

“In the trying times,the days of Partition,a father searches for his missing daughter,only to find her in the hospital,raped,battered and bruised. As a doctor steps forward to examine her,he tells the half-dead,young Muslim girl,‘khol do’. The girl immediately reaches to open her salwar,as the father looks on and says one word,‘zinda’.” This is the narration of an excerpt by writer Gulzar Singh Sandhu from his favourite story by Manto,Khol Do. “In one word,Manto captures the love of a father who is just happy to find his child alive. That was Manto’s power,” reflects Sandhu,as he prepares for a multi-faceted programme on Manto titled “Manto Will Never Die” that will bring to fore many untold stories and facets of Saadat Hasan Manto,the wild child of Urdu literature.

Sandhu is part of the group of passionate readers,writers,thinkers and theatre people who have formed The Manto Foundation,which will celebrate Manto’s birth centenary for an entire year,starting May 11,2012. With seminars,films,plays and discussions,the year-long celebrations that will travel to different cities will strive to celebrate Manto’s works. “The idea has been on our minds for quite some time now,and it has finally taken shape on his birth centenary,” says fellow member Shayda Bano. The group has people from varied walks of life who are working towards a plan that will be of documentation value. “No one has woken up to his greatness,so we decided to make an effort on a personal level,with no government or corporate support,” says Bano.

Starting May 11 with Quissa-E-Ranj-O-Boo and Ziqr-e-Manto,different voices will read passages from Manto’s stories,and bring to fore the story behind each writing. Renowned Urdu writer KL Zakir,who has known Manto closely,will talk of various facets of Manto,not just as a writer,but a man who chronicled the Partition and fought many personal battles,including spending months in a mental asylum. VK Sibal,the famous lawyer who fought many cases on Manto’s behalf when the writer was charged with obscenity,will present the proceedings as they took place in the court. The struggle behind retaining the name of the place Toba Tek Singh in Pakistan,which now is a zila,will also be shared.

Every age,agrees writer Nirupama Dutt,who presented a paper on Manto’s Toba Tek Singh at this year’s Jaipur Literary Festival,has its Manto who dares and breaks taboos to lay bare the socio-political misery. “As a chronicler of the Partition,Manto entered spaces as a storyteller,which historians failed to tread,” says Dutt.


In Toba Tek Singh,Manto portrayed the madness that accompanied the great catastrophe,one that theatre director Sahib Singh will bring to stage in the play Rishtiyan Da Ki Rakhiye Naam. Adapted by playwright and director Atamjit,the story is set in an asylum,woven with satire and dark humour. “It’s a representative story of Manto. Subtly,Manto describes how even the so-called mad realised the absurdity of Partition,and were against the biggest threat to humanity — being displaced from one’s roots,” says Singh,rehearsing for the show on May 11.

For Amritsar-based Kewal Dhaliwal the day is special,as he opens his new play Ek See Manto,based on Manto’s six pathbreaking stories,including Khol Do,Thanda Ghosht,Kali Salwar and Toba Tek Singh. “I met his three daughters and it’s through them that I am bringing Manto on stage,” says Dhaliwal,who will stage the play in Chandigarh on May 14. “We also plan to put up an exhibition of his books translated in several languages as part of the programme,” says Bano.

Manto Will Never Die will be staged at Punjab Kala Bhawan,Sector 16,4 pm onwards,on May 11.