Manto’s Relevance In Freedom Of Expression

‘Thanda Ghost”(Cold Meat), he did not have Rupees 300 to pay as fine. Utter his name today and many people shrug. They question his relevance. But few have surpassed his art of short story writing. He started by translating the works of Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky. Emulating these masters, he outgrew the South Asian mindset. Like Maupassant, he needed very little space to be able to create a world. Perhaps, he fell between the two stools. He scandalized the conservatives who shunned him, while the ‘progressives’ of his era espousing Marxist-Leninist ideals, thought he was needlessly and sensationally stirring the society’s sewerage. Bombay beckoned him in 1936 when he was 24. For the next 12 years, he churned out poetry, short stories, plays and film scripts. He wrote of sights and sounds of the big bad city, with biting satire, and sly humour. Sometimes, he told his story in no more than a paragraph or two. Manto surfaces only intermittently as India forgot him because he wrote in Urdu, dubbed the “enemy’s language” by a section of political and literary class. Pakistan, where he migrated but was never really comfortable, has been unable to digest him because his material, wherein he predicted military rule and religious extremism, was essentially anti-Pakistan. His presence is grudging and his prophesies are recalled by liberals as part of self-criticism His anguished writings on the Partition are soul-wrenching reminders of those times and to the conscience of anyone with a sensitive mind. “Either everyone’s life matters, or no one’s does” Manto wrote during the Partition. But he found it impossible to preach ideals amidst mindless violence. Bombay had, indeed, triggered his creative juices and offered him great avenues. But he left the beloved city in a pique when he found that the sectarian virus had afflicted even those he held dear. He quit after Shyam, a rising cine-star and a friend, told him when confronted by marauding rioters that he could “kill every Muslim in sight.” Pleadings by Ashok Kumar, the superstar of the day and a family friend were of no avail. Shyam caught up with him in Lahore later in the early 1950s and said Bombay wanted him back. But a heart-broken, penury-struck Manto never returned. “This is not the dawn we longed for,” Manto said upon hearing of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. And when Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah died, he wrote exhorting people to hoist the flag, not just of Pakistan and Islam, but also of humanity. It is difficult to identify the films Manto wrote for in his lifetime. But his writings have been made into films. BBC filmed Toba Tek Singh in 1987, but amid controversy it triggered, re-named it “Partition’. Manto-inspired Indian and Pakistani films include Mrinal Sen’s Antareen (1994), Fareeda’s Kali Shalwar (2001), and Toba Tek Singh by director Afia Nathaniel in 2005. Pakistan honoured him belatedly with a posthumous Nishan-e-Imtiaz Award (Order of Excellence) in 2012.  Sarmad Khoosat paid him homage with a 2015 biopic, himself playing Manto. It was later developed into a TV series based on his short stories. In India, after being confined for long to literary and theatre circles, actor-director Nandita Das has resurrected Manto with a biopic. It has received rave reviews in film festivals abroad. Amid the current India-Pakistan mood that is hostile and given the sensitivities of Manto had to say of the country where he died, it is unclear if it will be shown in Pakistan. Critics say Das has made a ‘dark’ film about a complex man. For, she doesn’t idolize Manto: indeed, she is irreverent and much as she revers him, even cruel in portraying him. This is where she differs vastly from the huge number of biopics Bollywood has produced recently ranging from cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni, boxing great Mary Kom, Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt and many others. That, perhaps, explains its poor earnings. Her Manto, performed exceedingly well by Nawazuddin Siddipui, is not larger-than-life. He has all the human frailties compounded by the intensity with which he reacts to people and situations he confronts. Das amplifies his liberal voice by maintaining an artistic distance. It’s her restraint that gives the film the soft edge. Notably, the film underlines the continued relevance of Manto’s words whether to do with Hindu-Muslim unity or freedom of expression. Only Manto, the writer, could defy God and dare to write his own epitaph while still in Bombay: “Here lies Manto and with him are buried all the secrets of the art of short story writing. Under mounds of the earth, he is still wondering which of the two was a greater story-teller: God or he.” While this epitaph was not used on the grave of Manto, Manto, the story-teller, has lived on. (The author can be reached at )]]>

Stunned India mourns Sridevi's death at 54

Saddened by the untimely demise of noted actor Sridevi. She was a veteran of the film industry, whose long career included diverse roles and memorable performances. My thoughts are with her family and admirers in this hour of grief. May her soul rest in peace: PM @narendramodi

— PMO India (@PMOIndia) February 25, 2018 Sridevi was in Dubai to attend the marriage function of actress Sonam Kapoor’s cousin Mohit Marwah, along with husband Boney Kapoor and younger daughter Khushi. She exuded elegance in her appearances — photos and videos that were now being shared on social media as her “last”. Confirming the news of her death, Sridevi’s brother-in-law and actor Sanjay Kapoor, told IANS: “Yes, it is true.”
Obituary: She Was One of Her Kind

The Indian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Indian Consulate in Dubai were assisting the family to expedite the process to bringing her body to India as soon as possible. The actress is remembered for her performance is some of the iconic Bollywood films like “Mr. India”, “Nagina”, “Sadma”, “ChalBaaz”, “Chandni”, “Khuda Gawah”, among many others in different Indian languages. The Padma Shri recipient, who made a comeback to Bollywood in 2012 with “English Vinglish” after a long break of 15 years, was last seen in “Mom” in 2017. Apparently having a premonition, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi’s co-star in half a dozen films, including “Khuda Gawah” had tweeted at 1.15 am on Sunday: “I don’t know, but I feel a strange sense of unease.” The untimely death of the veteran actress has left the country shocked. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned her demise. “Shocked to hear of passing of movie star Sridevi. She has left millions of fans heartbroken,” Kovind tweeted. Modi also took to Twitter, saying: “Saddened by the untimely demise of noted actor Sridevi. She was a veteran of the film industry, whose long career included diverse roles and memorable performances.” Southern movie stars and politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan also expressed disbelief. “I’m shocked and very disturbed. I’ve lost a dear friend and the industry has lost a true legend. My heart goes out to her family and friends. I feel the pain with them. Sridevi, you will be missed,” tweeted Rajinikanth, who featured with her in the memorable “ChaalBaaz”. Kamal Haasan, her co-star from “Sadma” — one of her most evocative performances — said: “Have witnessed Sridevi’s life from an adolescent teenager to the magnificent lady she became. Her stardom was well deserved. Many happy moments with her flash through my mind including the last time I met her. Sadma’s lullaby haunts me now. We’ll miss her.” Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, who has sung for Sridevi in 20 films including “Chaand Kaa Tukdaa”, “Khuda Gawah”, “Lamhe”, “Chandni”, “Nazrana” and “Himmatwala”, had no words to express her shock. “Yakeen nahi ho raha ki itni choti umar mein Sridevi chali gayi. Kya kahun kuch samajh mein nahi aa raha hai. Boney Kapoor aur unki do betiyon ke dukh mein main shamil hun. (I can’t believe that Sridevi died so early, she was too young. I don’t know what to say. Condolences to Boney Kapoor and the daughters),” she tweeted. Her “Mom” co-star Nawazuddin Siddiqui wrote: “It’s a heartbreaking news, can’t even imagine in the worst of my dreams – World losses the best performer.” Superstar Aamir Khan was “saddened by the untimely and tragic passing away of Srideviji”. He said he has “always been an admirer of the grace and dignity with which she conducted herself”. While veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was “jolted” by the news of her sudden death, Sunny Deol, who has worked with her in films like “Sultanat”, “ChaalBaaz” and “Ram-Avtar”, said he is “going to miss her”. Showbiz queen Ekta Kapoor tweeted: “The strongest women have the weakest hearts sometimes.” Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur said “with Sridevi gone an era is over”. “Like life turning a new chapter. A beautiful story just ended. An amazing spirit just vanished leaving us with amazing love, memories, and incredible grief,” he tweeted. (IANS)]]>

B-Town expresses shock, grief over pub fire

My heart goes out to all those affected by the Kamala Mills tragedy. Prayers and thoughts ?

— Ajay Devgn (@ajaydevgn) December 29, 2017 “Such incidents happen because of the corrupt BMC officials and other departments. They first allow illegal constructions and illegal cooking, after taking bribes. None of them fear the law because they know they will go scot-free. “Citizens of Mumbai have been fighting against illegal usage of gas cylinders on streets by illegal eateries, but have failed because the BMC officials are regularly paid. We then wait for human tragedies like these to happen and FIRs to be filed against the owners. “This is not the first time that such a human tragedy has occurred. We have lost so many innocent lives, but nothing has changed. It just boils down to becoming headlines for a few hours, till it happens again at another location,” Pandit wrote. He demanded that “all those BMC officers responsible for the illegalities in Kamla Mills compound are accountable for this tragedy and should be punished”. “There’s massive corruption, especially in the Fire Department of the BMC. NOCs and clearances are given by them to illegal restaurants, buildings which we know is not right. “Citizens who complain are not heard. They tire you by not acting against the complaints so that you stop complaining. A similar accident happened in Saki Naka recently. The city is on a volcano due to the apathy of the system,” he added and rued that “nobody responsible for the Kamla Mills fire will be punished… Inquiries will remain in files.” (IANS) // ]]>

Helen, Zeenat Aman feted as women achievers

 Yesteryear stars Helen and Zeenat Aman along with actresses Poonam Dhillon, Urmila Matondkar, Ileana D’Cruz, Huma Qureshi and choreographer-filmmaker Farah Khan were honoured for their contribution towards cinema at women achievers’ award show “Naaz”.
Organised by the All India Mahila Empowerment Party here on Sunday, the show also conferred awards to actresses Neha Dhupia, Sana Khan, singer Alka Yagnik, tennis star Sania Mirza and Ghazal singer Lata Haya Nagar among others. “It’s an honour for me to be here in front of such beautiful people. I am thankful and would like to cheer all the women,” Helen, who was accompanied by her stepson and actor Sohail Khan, said on stage. Sohail said he feels “honoured to have two mothers (Sushila Charak and Helen). Zeenat, who was prominent face of the Indian film industry in 1970s and 1980s, said: “I am delighted to participate in this evening because it really is about women. I have always been proud to be a woman, proud to be an Indian woman.” “I am so filled with pride to see that there are women, who are putting themselves forward to help the underprivileged and needful.a The awards were presented to the women achievers by Nowhera Sheikh, President, All India Mahila Empowerment Party, actors Suniel Shetty, Bobby Deol, Sohail and Aftab Shivdasani, former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar The Great Khali and former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin. Speaking on the occasion, Farah Khan said: “I am thankful to the organisers for honouring me. Every time I am asked that, ‘What are you doing to empower women?’ So, I have three children out of which two are girls and one is boy.” “I always try to empower my son, so that when he gets older, he respects women, equally treats them and never think that he is superior than them. Somewhere we need to empower our sons.” The event came to an end with a power-packed performance by Alka Yagnik.
// ]]>