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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Saadat Hasan Manto and Bollywood: From writing a National Award-winning film to playing a cameo in an Ashok Kumar movie

On popular Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto's birth anniversary today, we take a look at his relationship with Indian cinema. Not only did Manto write films, he also once appeared in film star Ashok Kumar's movie at his behest.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
May 11, 2022 8:28:59 am
mantoIt is Saadat Hasan Manto's birth anniversary today. (Photo: Express Archives)

Many things have been written and said about Saadat Hasan Manto, the popular and controversial Urdu writer of the subcontinent. Born in Ludhiana in British India on this date in 1912, Manto later migrated to Lahore, Pakistan, despite his intention to stay in Bombay. He was opposed to the Partition, and was deeply affected by the happenings around him at the time, like any sensitive, credible author worth his salt. These outpourings resulted in some of his best work till date such as Toba Tek Singh.

Manto is celebrated as a prolific short story writer and playwright. And there are many movies, full-length features as well as shorts, based on his work, or inspired by his own interesting life. But did you know that Saadat Hasan Manto also contributed directly to the movies, as we know them? He was a proficient screenwriter, and one of his seminal works is the 1954 movie Mirza Ghalib. Here is a quick look at some of the movies penned by the masterful hand of Saadat Hasan Manto.

Naukar (1943)

This 1943 release, helmed by Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and written by Saadat Hasan Manto, focused on the life of Fazlu (portrayed by Chandra Mohan), who was the lifelong help of Khwaja Islamuddin. It was his story and his trials and obstacles that the audience got to see on the celluloid. A cinematic gaze that is certainly missing from Indian cinema right now.

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Naukar starred Chandra Mohan, Noor Jehan, Yakub and Shobhna Samarth among others.

Chal Chal Re Navjavan (1944)

Plot details are scarce in this Gyan Mukherjee movie, but the film was reportedly a big box office success. Chal Chal Re Navjavan, penned by Manto, featured the likes of Ashok Kumar and Naseem Banu.

Shikari (1946)

Released as early as the mid 1940s, Saadat Hasan Manto had penned the story of this Savak B Vacha directorial. While not much is known about the plot of the film, the movie starred Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Paro Devi and Veera in pivotal parts. Its music was provided by Anil Chandra Sengupta and SD Burman.

Mirza Ghalib (1954)

In early 1940s and 50s, Manto dabbled in story writing and dialogue-writing frequently, and struck a friendship with film star Ashok Kumar, who also persuaded him to do a cameo in one of his films called Aath Din, or Eight Days, for which Manto has also been credited as a writer. But maybe the most important movie of his relatively short-lived film career has to be the 1954 release biopic called Mirza Ghalib.

As the title suggests, the movie was based on the life and times of the timeless Urdu and Persian poet Mirza Ghalib. The feature was directed by Sohrab Modi, and had Bharat Bhushan, Suraiya and Nigar Sultana playing significant parts. Apart from Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi and JK Nanda have also been credited as writers of this National Award-winning movie. Mirza Ghalib also won a President’s Gold Medal for being the All India Best Feature Film. The ghazals of the film were sung by Suraiya and Mohammed Rafi, along with Talat Mahmood. Interestingly, Mirza Ghalib was not only a critically acclaimed film, but also managed to make its presence felt at the box office.

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