Skip to main content

Quarter Preview: ‘MANTO’


The Good Times GT Magazine (Friday Times) published the official images sent with this write-up, posting the coverage here.

Manto is all the rage these days.

The writer who orbits the South Asian literary stratosphere recently marked his centennial anniversary and now appears as the subject of a new film. It has been directed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who also plays the title character and scripted by Shahid Mahmood Nadeem. Babar Javed produces. Media men & women invited for a first look in August had high expectations.

Contrary to what many thought, this was not a curtain raiser but a quarter preview, and the attendees found themselves at the screening of an extended teaser of ‘MANTO’ - the movie at Nueplex Cinemas – Karachi. The private showing also unveiled trailers of upcoming serials courtesy of GEO Films Production. The figure of Manto himself stays in shadow till 11th September – a day red flagged after 2001, but one that has always been significant for Pakistan and observed as the nation’s founding father's death anniversary. The filmmakers now hope to use the writer’s cinematic debut to change the negative connotations associated with the date.

The screening showcased a musical medley paying tribute to Shiv Kumar Batavi and Mirza Ghalib, and unveiled videos featuring performances by Javed Bashir (‘Kon Hai Yeh Gustakh’), Ali Sethi (‘Aah Ko Chahiye’), and Meesha Shafi (‘Mehram Dillqa De Mahi’). The segment also provided tantalizing glimpses of Sarmad Khoosat’s tormented portrayal of the scribe’s post Partition years – focusing on Manto’s fallibility and undeniable genius. It was a heady brew that underscored the interpretive approach used to stage the period piece and the courage needed to train the spotlight on his pet demons.

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955) was an outlier, known for his dalliances with the bottle and an insouciant disregard for convention. History books paint him as a tragic figure, shrouded in a haze of controversy in his trademark white Kurta – his career eclipsed by ill-health, poverty, and run-ins with the law both in Pre-Partition India and later a newly independent Pakistan. He gazed into the abyss, and often took his readers for an excursion through his polarizing literature. Despite leaving ruffled feathers in his wake, his status as a symbol of resistance earned him many admirers across the divide.

By chronicling the free fall in a biopic, the scriptwriters return to Lahore of yore as seen through the protagonist’s cynical eyes and weave his writings within a compelling soundtrack. This is not an origin story, nor does it pretend to be an escapist fantasy, as evidenced by the inherent darkness and the use of color palettes that capture the melancholy hues and visceral overtones leaving the viewers dazed and a little shaken. Of the four musical presentations, only one by Zeb Bangash & Ali Sethi (‘Kya Ho Ga’) offered some droll humor to lighten the mood.

The large turnout at the event proved that interest in his legacy never waned. The star power was represented by Marina Khan, Aijaz Aslam, Shanaz Ramzi, Hira Tareen, Savera Nadeem, Gohar Rasheed, YBQ etc. The red carpet was also visited by intellectuals like M. Hanif (‘Case of Exploding Mangoes’) and H.M. Naqvi (‘Homeboy’).

M. Hanif whose name also appears in the credits has reportedly penned one song adding to the powerhouse supporting cast, most of which was present at the launch. The MANTO team took a bow but left the speech-making / Q&A session out. They included Sania Saeed as Begum Manto joined by Saba Qamar (Madam Noor Jehan), Nimra Bucha (Manto’s muse), Nadia Afgan, Savera Nadeem, Azfar Rehman, Hina Bayat and the elder Mr. Khoosat. Humayun Saeed and Faisal Qureshi had cameos. The audience noted the clever makeovers and abstract storytelling that transformed Mahira Khan into a Madari and depicted Shamoon Abbasi brandishing a Kirpan.

Sarmad’s risk-taking approach established the artistic parameters ‘MANTO’ aims to explore and hinted at the seismic shifts within the industry that bode well for Pakistani cinema. Whether he has succeeded in breaking new ground will be decided in a few weeks. Painting the portrait of a man of Manto’s stature is a high wire act and requires dexterity and vision. The narrative will reportedly sidestep the politics of the era but the grim subtext might be hard to ignore. His twilight years present an opportunity to look back to a moment in time fondly remembered for its tolerance and sunny optimism. It will be interesting to see Manto’s Pakistan on the wings of his unfettered imagination and debate upon his relevance within a contemporary setting.

As Sarmad Khoosat, whose previous directorial ventures include HUM Tv’s critically acclaimed ‘Humsafar’, moves into serious territory, choosing to bring Manto’s special brand of irreverence to the 21st Century along with him is a dramatic opening gambit. MANTO plans to open nationwide by Fall of 2015.

PR & Event Management by Phegency PR & Events
Red Carpet hosted by Anoushey Ashraf






Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Importance of Being Pakistan

Published in Global Village Space / July 2017

Implications of a Modi – Trump style ‘meet and greet’

As Mr. Modi descended upon Washington, armed with Kashmiri shawls, tea, honey, and personalized invites for the first family to visit India, the U.S. media hastened to find parallels between the two nations. Democracies both (biggest / oldest), led by men with a degree of social-media savvy, men indifferent to public opinion and sporting unique greeting styles - hugs from Modi, handshakes from Trump.

Seen from afar, the show stopping performance yielded significant results, strengthened defense cooperation and secured 22 shiny new Guardian drones. Commentators noted that contentious issues like H1-B work visas and climate change etc were reportedly left out in the cold while detractors brooded over the symbolism that signaled the arrival of a new world order. As with all these visits, Pakistan wasn’t far from India’s thoughts and opinion makers now wonder at the extent Modi can shape…

OPED: Radd-ul-Fassad – An Urgent Revision in the Wake of Mashal Khan's Lynching

Published Global Affairs / June 2017

Written in the immediate aftermath of Mashal Khan's lynching

On December 2014, 148 people, mostly school kids were murdered by terrorists in the APS (Army Public School) school massacre. In April 2017, a university student was lynched in Mardan. One tragedy marked a turning point. Another opens a Pandora’s Box.

APS happened while Operation Zarb-e-Azb was underway. It shook the nation to its very core; and pushed the armed forces to expand the scope of its offensives. Military courts were set up in the aftermath. A death row inmate (Qadri), once lauded by clergy and lawyers for killing a Governor, was finally executed along with scores of militants.

And soon another operation would come into effect after shrines, rallies and public places were targeted in a resurgence of terror in 2017. If the first was driven by vengeance, the second came from desperation. Pakistan’s survival was at stake – unless it tackled the darkness head on. But the dark…

What Pakistan Wants from Afghanistan...?

Published by Global Affairs / July 2017


In the aftermath of the deadly attacks in a diplomatic enclave and a funeral, Afghanistan’s fate now hangs in the balance, while experts mull over the merits of potential troop surges and worry about the endemic corruption, plummeting morale and ensuing chaos. Afghan President Ghani’s statement that his nation suffers from an ‘undeclared war of aggression from Pakistan’ delivered at Kabul Process meeting sums up the problem.

Interestingly, a week before, he expressed the exact same sentiment – only the words were ‘undeclared war of aggression from non-state actors.’ Later his Twitter feed regurgitated the passive aggressive plea from the speech that by turns call for dialogue and apportions blame to its neighbors.

What is it that Pakistan wants is the question foremost in his mind. He also wonders what the Taliban want.

The first question is easily answered. The Pak Army COAS wants Afghanistan to look inwards. Probably at the safe havens …

Pakistan’s Neutral Stance on Qatar

Written right after the Qatar embargo

Published Global Affairs Jul 2017


Qatar recently found itself in hot water based on comments attributed to its leadership – comments that had been categorized as fake news. As a pretext it served its purpose. The oil-gas rich nation has been placed in a diplomatic stranglehold though it renounced charges of funding terrorism and being a destabilizing influence the region. These may be pressure tactics meant to put Qatar in its place, cut it down to size, make it tow the GCC line whatever that might be at the moment. The definition of terror in this case is open to interpretation. Qatar fights ISIL alongside coalition partners. But its support for proscribed groups like Muslim Brotherhood for instance and relationship with Tehran keeps it in the doghouse.

Washington remains ambivalent. The American President endorsed the move. The Secretary of State cautioned against boycotts. But GCC nations seem clear-sighted. The small state houses US CENTCOM, t…

OPED: Keeping the Truth & Reconciliation Train on Track in Pakistan & Bangladesh

Published by Global Affairs / June 2017

It is no secret that Pakistan’s Eastern Wing broke away or that India helped carve Bangladesh in 1971. There were weaknesses to be exploited and deep seated resentments that left sizeable fissures in between Pakistan’s East and West wing. The Indian PM Modi can now tip his hat to 1,661 Indian soldiers allied with an armed resistance – the dreaded Mukti Bahini without fear of reprisal. Of late, there have been whispers about a KGB element in the mix. But the past is over and done with. Or is it?

There was madness and mayhem and civil unrest. Both sides suffered. The figure of three million offered by Bangladesh however has been widely disputed. While there has been a lot of water under the bridge since 1971- there has not been any serious attempt at breaching the divide. But most Pakistanis have not whitewashed their history and acknowledge their errors in judgment and lack of political foresight that led to the debacle.

‘The wall between Bangl…

OPED: Pakistan at the Frontlines of Educational Reforms

Originally Published by Global Affairs / May 2017. Written before the Mashal Khan tragedy in Mardan



A terrifying document surfaced the other day on the social media that suggested a possibly extremist agenda in the education department in KPK - Pakistan. The letter dated 2015, ostensibly from Pervez Khattak directed DCTE Abbottabad to seek input from proscribed groups - the ASWJ for devising the curriculum. It was an alarming discovery and the comments that followed on the twitter timeline of the social activist who shared the story were even more alarming for they appeared to support making terror outfits stakeholders in the academia.

In a different part of town a few good Samaritans put forward a timely proposal that promised salvation for young Pakistani’s at the mercy of the hardliner’s pen.

Representatives from 7 organizations presented a pilot project launched to defuse the ticking time bomb of bigotry and hate. They dubbed it - ‘Badal Do’ – ‘Ignite the Change Within’ - a c…

OP-ED: Business as Usual

Published in Global Affairs / March 2017. Written / Sep 2016.

Third world nations that remain daggers drawn have yet to ascend to that stage of nirvana marked by regional cooperation and economic reforms; the kind that defines Sino - US relations for instance. Former US ambassador to China described their emerging relationship as “controlled enmity.” It had remained on course despite Washington’s concerns over the militarization of South China Sea, or indictment of Chinese hackers by a US court. The world’s biggest economy and the largest US foreign creditor and the superpower had learnt to prioritize and steer their relations towards a semblance of normality.

No one really knows which direction they will take under a Donald Trump Presidency. But economic considerations trumped personal differences at the time. And now judging from the list of banned nations devised by the White House where some obvious names have been pointedly left out – at least for the time being, it still app…