An indie flick from Pakistan has been wowing critics and I found myself part of a 300 strong crowd at its premier in London last week.
Manto is the kind of literary figure that my mum becomes glaze eyed about and she’ll suddenly recite passages and look at me with an air of pride at how, clearly, all artists in Urdu are superior to any other.
Manto was a controversial writer whose career spans the 40s and 50s which is, of course, when partition took place. He flitted between Lahore and Delhi with ease speaking to his (mainly male) audience with his short stories. He was controversial because his stories were often sexual (we’re talking 1940s sexual here, don’t get excited) and/or he wrote about easily identifiable public figures.
I could see that it was his sometimes unsophisticated audience that didn’t understand metaphor or would completely miss the point for some other reason was the problem that Manto faced. Politicians also did not appreciate Manto dipping into their territory and sought to censor and ban his stories.
Like all great artists, Manto suffered financially, his marriage was difficult and he was quite a selfish person. His art was more important than everything else, although perhaps he was unable to do anything else.
It is a brilliantly shot film, expertly shot; I felt transported to 50s Pakistan. The dialogue is fantastic and has the audience both giggling away and welling up with tears of sadness.
It is a difficult film to watch in part but only for its truthfulness. You are very much recommended to seek it out and enjoy!