Would there ever come a time when we would proudly own Manto for owning Manto is like owning the gruesome realities around us. And only through reconciling with the bitterness around us can we do something about it. By banning Manto or playing deaf or dumb won’t help us alleviate us from our current state of denial. Manto is reality albeit a bitter one. It is sad that persecution of his writing continues even today.
Recently Nandita Das an Indian film maker expressed her disappointment through Twitter,
Disappointed that Manto will not be seen in theatres in Pakistan. I was keen as he belongs to both countries equally.
Viacom18 Motion Pictures Namrata Goyal… https://t.co/rC7rxhKHgO
— Nandita Das (@nanditadas) December 15, 2018
Nandita also wrote an article in which she further explored the Pakistani censor board decision of banning Manto.
“To divide Sadat Hassan Manto, the celebrated Urdu writer along the lines of nationality would be the ultimate irony. He took partition so much to hurt that it broke him. He equally belonged to both countries which is why I was very keen for the film to be simultaneously released in both the countries.”
Sadat Hassan Manto a legendary Urdu writer of subcontinent is revered in India and Pakistan equally. Even BBC listed his masterpiece “Toba Tek Singh” as one of 100 stories that influenced and shaped the world, along with Virginia wolf and Homer. Recently Pakistan censor board banned the release of Nawaz-ud-Din starrer Manto film by an Indian film maker Nandita Das. According to the censor board the film supports “anti-partition narrative and has explicit scenes”.
Manto migrated to Pakistan along with his family, leaving his beloved Bombay behind and that just broke him. Alcoholism was his only respite. He drank to drown his sorrows and agony. To ban a biopic of the writer whose life was turned upside down due to partition is an irony in itself.
Manto was a sensitive soul who wrote about the taboo topics of our society. That is why he was always involved in some controversy or other. He mainly penned down the ugly facts of our society which no other writer dared to write about. Issues pertaining to women and society were the main focus of his writings.
Banning Manto is hypocrisy
Sex worker, pimps, prostitutes were the topics of his writings and he wrote all this when no other writer could even think about it. He was tried for obscenity several times but never convicted. Ultra-conservative judges of that time could not bear his true depiction of society and so is the case even today.
To call a movie based on manto “obscene”, when the same censor board approves the films like “jawani phir nahi aani” or “Teefa in trouble”, shows us how ironic the concept of censorship is.
The film manto is a piece of art which should not be politicized because Manto was among the few writers who were owned by both the nations. Manto wrote about the problems of society which are relatable to Pakistani and Indian society at the same time.
Banning Manto is foolish, because in this digital era, where information is literally on your fingertips, it doesn’t stop the masses from watching it. In fact it becomes a forbidden fruit.
Same is the case with Manto film, it is already available on Netflix and is receiving great reviews. Seems like censor board has done more harm then good by banning Manto. Art knows no boundaries and freedom of expression is something that we already lack in Pakistan.
Urdu literature already lacks world class writers and banning Manto; a biopic of celebrated Urdu writer will discourage filmmakers and send out a negative image of Pakistan. Our Censor board has no qualms on releasing Hollywood or Bollywood movies with adult content but an Urdu writer who merely paints the society in its true colors is labeled vulgar and obscene. This just lays bare our superficial puritanical beliefs.
The good news is that several different journalists and intellectuals are supporting manto’s release in Pakistan. An open letter to PM Imran khan hasbeen initiated by manto’s daughters, renowned Pakistani journalists, literary activists and intellectuals.
The Pakistani authorities censored the film #Manto, a biopic of dissident writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Now, activists and family members wrote an open letter to the Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan. @dailytimespak published it: https://t.co/kr2IQElKG2#FreeExpression pic.twitter.com/w2yWehv5uP
— ARC (@AtRiskArtists) December 17, 2018
The letter reads as follows:
“The film ban is being hugely protested as it is considered an attack on creative and artistic freedom of expression. It is therefore appealed that the ban is dismissed with immediate effect.”
Content-based films are already rare nowadays because of the commercial era in which we are living so to ban the movie that is based on original content is disappointing.
Federal minister for information and broadcasting took notice of the matter and tweeted
“I am trying to pursue the importers to bring this movie to Pak, I hope someone will definitely take the risk of showing the less commercial film to viewers.”
We hope that the minister do some real work in this regard and manto can be released nationwide.
Pakistan censor board has the history of banning films that have anti-partition theme, because anything that shows partition in different light other then what has been fed to us throughout the years, doesn’t bode well with most authorities.