Writer Saadat Hasan Manto was infamous for digging deep into the society, unfurling facets that most people chose to keep hidden. If you feel disturbed after watching his biopic, then director Sarmad Khoosat would feel he’s done his job well.
“I wanted people to be disturbed by the film so that they know what actually happened to him,” said Khoosat, as he spoke about his latest film, Manto, at Oxford University Press on Monday evening. “He [Manto] was driven to despair when he was denied his true passion.”
Khoosat, who also plays the lead role in the film, regrets that we did not own Manto enough but felt that it is time we rectify this.
Accompanying the lead actor were Sania Saeed, who plays the role of Manto’s wife Safia, and Nimra Bucha, who plays the role of Manto’s muse. The evening kicked off with the movie trailer and a video of Majeed Amjad’s poem on Manto ‘Kon he ye gustakh’ sung by Jawaid Bashir.
“The director portrayed Manto as a human as he was with all his flaws, force and beauty,” said Saeed. “He was not shown to be a saint,” she added.
Even Khoosat admitted that he did not want to whitewash Manto. “I wanted people to know what [hardships] he has gone through in his life and what sort of person he was,” he said, replying to a question on why the movie showed so much distress.
Manto was marginalised and he was portrayed in a way that only a certain group of people could understand him, he said. “We wanted everyone to understand Manto’s work and his turbulent life,” he said.
“I love Manto and he has always been an inspiration to me. It was a passion project,” said Khoosat. The making of this film was a long journey. It was shot over only three months but it took over two years to edit it, he pointed out.
The idea of a biopic for Manto was originally conceived in 2012 for television.
Shahid Mahmood Nadeem wrote the narrative and Khoosat was so deeply touched that he requested to be allowed to edit the film version of the project. “It was not easy to cut it into a film so it took me over two years to edit it,” he said.
The director was pleased when the film was passed by the country’s censor board but they had to put disclaimers in the film about the hazards of alcohol and smoking.
The filmmakers have added subtitles to the movie so they can screen it abroad as well. Khoosat said they are planning on making arrangements to screen this film in India, US and across Europe.
Khoosat was proud to add that Nandita Das in India is also making a film on Manto. Manto’s work is read and published in India 10 times more than Pakistan, he said. The event concluded with Ghalib’s ghazal ‘Ah Ko Chahieye Ik Umar Asar Hony Tak,’ sung by Ali Sethi.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2015.